Nanotechnology Spotlight – Latest Articles

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Showing Spotlights 17 - 24 of 32 in category All (newest first):


Self-assembly machines - a vision for the future of manufacturing

self-assemblyIndustrial production processes, by and large, rely on robotic assembly lines that place, package, and connect a variety of disparate components. While the manufacturing world is dominated by robots, there are applications where the established processes of serial 'pick and place' and manipulation of single objects reach scaling limits in terms of throughput, alignment precision, and the minimal component dimension they can handle effectively. By contrast, the emerging methods of engineered self-assembly are massively parallel and have the potential to overcome these scaling limitations.

Jul 10th, 2014

Embedded 3D printing for soft robotics fabrication

sensorA significant challenge in soft robotics involves fabricating soft sensors and actuators which, so far, have been very tedious to produce. Building soft sensors used by roboticists usually requires a multi-step, manual molding-lamination-sealing-infilling process. As a result, the design and fabrication process is cumbersome; the sensor form factors are unnecessarily limited; and there are issues with mechanical robustness. Now, though, researchers have demonstrated a new method for creating highly stretchable sensors based on embedded 3D printing of a carbon-based resistive ink within an elastomeric matrix.

Jun 24th, 2014

Magnetic nanovoyagers in human blood (w/video)

nanopropellerWhile nanotechnology researchers have made great progress over the past few years in developing self-propelled nano objects, these tiny devices still fall far short of what their natural counterparts' performance. Today, artificial nanomotors lack the sophisticated functionality of biomotors and are limited to a very narrow range of environments and fuels. In another step towards realizing the vision of tiny vessels roaming around in human blood vessels working as surgical nanorobots, researchers have now demonstrated, for the first time, externally driven nanomotors that move in undiluted human blood.

Apr 17th, 2014

Smallest DNA origami nanorobot yet has a switchable flap

nanobot_with_flapNot to be confused with the nanorobots of science fiction, for medical nanotechnology researchers a nanorobot, or nanobot, is a popular term for molecules with a unique property that enables them to be programmed to carry out a specific task. In what is the smallest 3D DNA origami box so far, researchers in Italy have now fabricated a nanorobot with a switchable flap that, when instructed with a freely defined molecular message, can perform a specifically programmed duty. Slightly larger nanocontainers with a controllable lid have already been demonstrated by others to be suitable for the delivery of drugs or molecular signals, but this new cylindrical nanobot has an innovative opening mechanism.

Apr 2nd, 2014

Medical microrobots to deliver drugs on demand (w/video)

microrobotAdvances in micro- and nanoscale engineering in the medical field have led to the development of various robotic designs that one day will allow a new level of minimally invasive medicine. These micro- and nanorobots will be able to reach a targeted area, provide treatments and therapies for a desired duration, measure the effects and, at the conclusion of the treatment, be removed or degrade without causing adverse effects. Ideally, all these tasks would be automated but they could also be performed under the direct supervision and control of an external user.

Nov 13th, 2013

Robotic Venus flytrap aids artificial muscle research

venus_flytrapThe Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a carnivorous plant that catches and digests little insects. Its trapping mechanism consists of a series of tiny hairs at the crease where the plant's two leaves join. When a fly or spider walk across these hairs, touching two or more of them in succession, the two leaves will close quickly enough - within hundreds of milliseconds - to prevent its escape. Now, researchers have used it as inspiration for a new biomimetic robot made with artificial muscles. The device offers promise in the development of electrically stimulated artificial muscle that could be implanted in people to help overcome muscular disease or paralysis.

Mar 6th, 2012

Microbots transport, assemble and deliver micro- and nanoscale objects

microfactorySophisticated molecular-size motors have evolved in nature, where they are used in virtually every important biological process. Some fascinating examples in nature are DNA and RNA polymerase, rotary motors such as ATP synthase, and flagella motors. In contrast, the development of synthetic nanomotors that mimic the function of these amazing natural systems and could be used in man-made nanodevices is in its infancy. Nevertheless, scientists are making good progress in achieving cargo transport by artificial nanomachines although often these advances are handicapped by several drawbacks. Researchers in Germany have now demonstrated the directed loading and transport of microobjects by high propulsion powered tubular microbots driven by a microbubble propulsion mechanism.

Aug 3rd, 2010

Photovoltaic cells to power biological nanorobots inside the body

solar_cellAs the fields of bionanotechnologies develop, it will become possible one day to use biological nanodevices such as nanorobots for in situ and real-time in vivo diagnosis and therapeutic intervention of specific targets. A prerequisite for designing and constructing wireless biological nanorobots is the availability of an electrical source which can be made continuously available in the operational biological environment (i.e. the human body). Several possible sources - temperature displacement, kinetic energy derived from blood flow, and chemical energy released from biological motors inside the body - have been designed to provide the electrical sources that can reliably operate in body. Researchers now report the construction of a 980-nm laser-driven photovoltaic cell that can provide a sufficient power output even when covered by thick biological tissue layers.

Dec 11th, 2009