Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > What do we know about nano?

DNA threads through a carbon nanotube. Enlarged to this scale, the nanotube would extend about the length of a football field.
DNA threads through a carbon nanotube. Enlarged to this scale, the nanotube would extend about the length of a football field.

Abstract:
Nanotechnology involves manipulating the unimaginably small. A nanometer is about 5 carbon atoms in a row, or the distance your fingernail grows in one second. Matter behaves fundamentally differently at that scale, opening up new possibilities for products and processes. Nanotech is a vast emerging field of research, full of possibilities, and the media and the public are starting to take notice.

By Kirsten Keane

What do we know about nano?

Phoenix, AZ | Posted on May 8th, 2010

"One promise of nanotech is the idea of building molecule-sized machines to haul atoms. You could ‘grow' anything you wanted. You could grow a house. Or a t-bone steak," said ASU law professor Joel Garreau at a science café, "Facts or Hype: What is the Media Telling Us about Nano & Other New Technologies?" at the Arizona Science Center on March 19.

Today, nanotechnology brings us self-cleaning windows and stain-resistant pants. These products are useful, but not exactly revolutionary. It's the promise of nanotechnology that's intriguing.

"The world could be transformed so abruptly as to be unrecognizable," Garreau said.

ASU is becoming a leader in nanotechnology research, both in science and engineering as well as matters of policy. In 2009, ASU biophysicist Stuart Lindsay published the first comprehensive textbook for the field, Introduction to Nanoscience. Although new, it is starting to be used widely.

A nano case study

Lindsay uses nanotechnology in his lab to help improve DNA sequencing techniques. One of the current challenges in DNA sequencing is to take the process from something that costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes weeks or months to develop to something that could be done on a computer chip in minutes or hours for just a few dollars.

"We want to make human health better, that's why we're doing it," says Lindsay.

The primary goal of Lindsay's research is to find a new way to read the DNA base proteins: A, T, C, and G. His team is exploring a method called electron tunneling, which Lindsay calls an "exotic piece of quantum mechanics." Electron tunneling involves passing DNA between two electrodes that can detect the chemical makeup of each individual base.

Another important piece of technology is the nanopore, which directs the DNA between the electrodes. Lindsay says the nanopore threads DNA "like a piece of cotton through a needle." Nanopores were once made by assembling natural proteins, which form holes in cell walls, or by taking an electron microscope beam and drilling a tiny hole in a piece of silicone. Both of these processes are difficult to do, and there is a problem of reliably printing electrode pairs very close to DNA.

Lindsay's team showed that a single carbon nanotube, two nanometers in diameter and centimeters long, can grow easily on a silicon wafer using conventional science methods. "You don't need exotic techniques," he says.

The DNA will then slither through the inside of the carbon nanotube. This phenomenon was highly unexpected. "The referees at Science didn't believe it the first time we submitted the paper, so we had to do a lot more to convince them," Lindsay says, laughing. The paper appeared in Science in January 2010.

The team still has work to do before they've got a working device and a company producing it, but Lindsay says, "We've shown the feasibility of this approach to DNA sequencing. A few years ago most people would have said this was science fiction."

He adds, "It's a shame because the truth about science is that most funding supports incremental advances, because the community will accept that they can do them. This means that the big breakthroughs are very difficult to support. It's really worth risky funding for some important goals because people will achieve them. If you get teams of bright people collaborating on a focused goal, you really can work miracles."

On the horizon

Part of the problem may be that the public can't tease out which projects are "possible but distant" and which are "next year's hot product." The mass media isn't always clear about how feasible, and imminent, promising new technologies are. Developing technologies and then testing them for effectiveness, safety and cost can take a long time. But the public can become wary of supporting research when overly hyped "breakthroughs" don't show up in the marketplace quickly.

At the science café, Garreau spoke about "The Seven Horizons: Timelines and Roadmaps for Emerging Technologies for the Next Twenty Years," a web site developed to assess emerging technologies. He said the timeline is helpful for addressing questions like, "How seriously should we take this? How much time have we got? Is this possibility something that could happen tomorrow with certainty, or something that might be possible many decades in the future?"

Technologies within the First Horizon are "available, but not ubiquitous," such as anti-microbial socks that eliminate odor with the help of nanomaterials. The other horizons include "commercial," "engineering," "scientific," "informed speculation," "blue sky" and finally the Seventh Horizon, "questionable," which includes science that doesn't seem possible within even the next 20 years.

Lindsay's research might currently fall under the Fourth Horizon, "scientific," meaning there is evidence that the technology is possible, but not much research has been done on how to make the process safe and economical in the marketplace. Technologies in this category, according to the Seven Horizons Web site, are "typically 4-10 years to reaching the public if everything goes right."

The Seven Horizons was developed by the Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security (CETMONS) in association with ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, and the Prevail Project: Wise Governance for Challenging Futures.

"Nanotech today barely exists," Garreau said at the science café. "Almost anything you can say today about nanotechnology is speculation."

Speculation or on the horizon, who is aware of these advances? Who will benefit from them? As the novelist William Gibson said, "The future is already here; it's just not evenly distributed."

Nanotechnology and society

One important issue facing nanotech today is the development of regulation in the face of scientific uncertainty about the technology. Elizabeth Corley, a professor in ASU's School of Public Affairs, studies the policy implications of nanotechnology.

"When we think about a field like nanotechnology, the science moves forward so quickly that the discussion of the social, ethical, and policy impacts often falls behind," says Corley, who is a co-principal investigator at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU (CNS-ASU).

"One of the goals of the CNS-ASU is to make sure that as a scientific community we engage in a discussion about the social and policy implications of nanotechnology research at the same time that the science is moving forward."

Corley received three engineering degrees before pursuing her doctoral studies in public policy. Her current research explores public perceptions about the risks and benefits of nanotechnology, as well as how the leading U.S. nanoscientists think about the role of risks and benefits in the development of nanotechnology regulation.

"Our recent research shows that nanotech is one of the first emerging technologies where we've seen the scientists more concerned than the public about certain risks," she says. The biggest difference in level of concern was related to human health and the environment.

Nanotech right now has a fragmented and almost nonexistent policy framework. For example, the FDA regulates some nanotechnology based on a product-by-product model, while the EPA regulates nanotechnology largely through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). These are very different models and some nanotechnology products are not covered under any existing regulations.

"The public often thinks differently about nanotechnology that is used to produce a life-saving device in the medical field than when using it for new surveillance practices and techniques," Corley says. "This means it is increasingly important to study the public's perceptions about particular application areas for nanotechnology, like the environment, the medical field, and national defense."

Another issue to explore, Corley says, is how we make policy about an emerging technology when we don't yet know all the risks.

Corley and her team have also tracked the public's knowledge about nanotechnology over time, particularly comparing survey data from 2004 and 2007. Surprisingly, when looked at as a whole, public knowledge levels about nanotechnology haven't changed much between 2004 and 2007 despite numerous outreach efforts. However, in a study published in The Scientist in January 2010, Corley and her team decided to take a closer look at different segments of the public. They found that there is a widening nanotech knowledge gap among members of the public with the least and most formal education levels.

From this research, Corley asks the question, "What sort of outreach efforts would more effectively reach those segments of the public with lower formal education levels?" Her results provide one possible answer to this question because the study showed that the Internet could serve as a "leveler" of these knowledge gaps.

"Does it really matter if the public understands science and technology?" asked Joe Kullman, media relations officer for ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at the science café. His answer was an unequivocal, "Yes!"

"A lot of what happens, happens—or doesn't happen—because of politics," Kullman added. "People's perceptions inform policy. Politicians listen to what people think, regardless of whether what they think is accurate or not. If we make policy decisions based on misinformed perceptions, we will make some big mistakes."

Lindsay's research is funded by the DNA Sequencing Technology Program of the National Human Genome Research Institute at the National Institutes of Health. Corley's research is funded through the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU, which is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Joel Garreau is the Lincoln Professor of Law, Culture and Values in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Elizabeth Corley is the Lincoln Professor of Public Policy, Ethics and Emerging Technologies in the School of Public Programs. Stuart Lindsay is a Regents' Professor in the Department of Physics and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

####

For more information, please click here

Copyright © Arizona State University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

First Observation of Electronic Structure in Ag-Rh Alloy Nanoparticles Having Hydrogen Absorbing: Storage Property –Attempting to solve the mystery of why Ag-Rh alloy nanoparticles have a similar property to Pd– October 30th, 2014

Iranians Present Model to Predict Photocatalytic Process in Removal of Pollutants October 30th, 2014

Production of Biocompatible Polymers in Iran October 30th, 2014

Amorphous Coordination Polymer Particles as alternative to classical nanoplatforms for nanomedicine October 30th, 2014

Ethics

PETA science consortium experts to present at international nanotechology workshop: PETA International Science Consortium, Ltd., Is a Sponsor of Nano Risk Analysis II September 12th, 2014

PETA science consortium to present hazard testing strategy at nanotoxicology meeting: High tech field ripe for use of sophisticated non-animal testing strategies April 22nd, 2014

Scientists disagree on responsible research April 8th, 2014

Caltech Researchers Create Light-Bending Silicon Chip: Bending the Light with a Tiny Chip March 10th, 2014

Products

HZO Teams With Deutsche Telekom to Unveil the Waterproof Tolino Vision 2 eReader: The New HZO Protected eReader Ushers in a New Era of Waterproof Electronics, Providing a Seamless User Experience Without the Risk of Using Port Doors and Mechanical Seals October 10th, 2014

7th Nanotechnology Festival, Exhibition Kicks Off Work in Iran October 7th, 2014

Next-Gen Luxury RV From Global Caravan Technologies Will Offer MagicView Roof and Windshield Using SPD-SmartGlass Technology From Research Frontiers: Recreational Vehicle Manufacturer Global Caravan Technologies (GCT) Features 28 Square Feet of MagicView™ SPD-SmartGlass September 17th, 2014

Fonon at Cutting-Edge of 3D Military Printing: Live-Combat Scenarios Could See a Decisive Advantage with 3D Printing September 15th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

'Electronic skin' could improve early breast cancer detection October 29th, 2014

New solar power material converts 90 percent of captured light into heat: SunShot Project aims to make solar cost competitive October 29th, 2014

Tiny carbon nanotube pores make big impact October 29th, 2014

Microrockets fueled by water neutralize chemical and biological warfare agents October 29th, 2014

Possible Futures

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Superconducting circuits, simplified: New circuit design could unlock the power of experimental superconducting computer chips October 18th, 2014

Nanocoatings Market By Product Is Expected To Reach USD 8.17 Billion By 2020: Grand View Research, Inc. October 15th, 2014

Perpetuus Carbon Group Receives Independent Verification of its Production Capacity for Graphenes at 140 Tonnes per Annum: Perpetuus Becomes the First Manufacturer in the Sector to Allow Third Party Audit October 7th, 2014

Academic/Education

SUNY Polytechnic Institute Invites the Public to Attend its Popular Statewide 'NANOvember' Series of Outreach and Educational Events October 23rd, 2014

First Canada Excellence Research Chair gets $10 million from the federal government for oilsands research at the University of Calgary: Federal government announces prestigious research chair to study improving oil production efficiency October 19th, 2014

Raytheon, UMass Lowell open on-campus research institute: Industry leader’s researchers to collaborate with faculty, students to move key technologies forward through first-of-its-kind partnership October 11th, 2014

SUNY Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Announce Expanded Partnership October 2nd, 2014

Molecular Machines

Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream: Scientists have designed the first large DNA crystals with precisely prescribed depths and complex 3D features, which could create revolutionary nanodevices October 20th, 2014

Optimum inertial design for self-propulsion: A new study investigates the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro and nano-scale swimming machines July 29th, 2014

Breakthrough laser experiment reveals liquid-like motion of atoms in an ultra-cold cluster: University of Leicester research team unlocks insights into creation of new nano-materials July 25th, 2014

NIST shows ultrasonically propelled nanorods spin dizzyingly fast July 22nd, 2014

Molecular Nanotechnology

Crystallizing the DNA nanotechnology dream: Scientists have designed the first large DNA crystals with precisely prescribed depths and complex 3D features, which could create revolutionary nanodevices October 20th, 2014

Fast, cheap nanomanufacturing: Arrays of tiny conical tips that eject ionized materials could fabricate nanoscale devices cheaply October 4th, 2014

Nano-bearings on the test bench: Fullerene spheres can be used to slide in the nanoworld October 3rd, 2014

Penn Team Studies Nanocrystals by Passing Them Through Tiny Pores September 26th, 2014

Nanotubes/Buckyballs

Tiny carbon nanotube pores make big impact October 29th, 2014

Materials for the next generation of electronics and photovoltaics: MacArthur Fellow develops new uses for carbon nanotubes October 21st, 2014

Special UO microscope captures defects in nanotubes: University of Oregon chemists provide a detailed view of traps that disrupt energy flow, possibly pointing toward improved charge-carrying devices October 21st, 2014

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Nanomedicine

Production of Biocompatible Polymers in Iran October 30th, 2014

Amorphous Coordination Polymer Particles as alternative to classical nanoplatforms for nanomedicine October 30th, 2014

'Electronic skin' could improve early breast cancer detection October 29th, 2014

Tiny carbon nanotube pores make big impact October 29th, 2014

Environment

Microrockets fueled by water neutralize chemical and biological warfare agents October 29th, 2014

Nanoparticles Display Ability to Improve Efficiency of Filters October 28th, 2014

Iranian, Malaysian Scientists Study Nanophotocatalysts for Water Purification October 23rd, 2014

Imaging electric charge propagating along microbial nanowires October 20th, 2014

Safety-Nanoparticles/Risk management

Nanosafety research – there’s room for improvement October 29th, 2014

Plastic nanoparticles also harm freshwater organisms October 18th, 2014

Human health, wealth require expanded marine science, experts say: In Rome, European experts publish a 'common vision' of priorities for marine research and action through 2020 October 9th, 2014

Coating Nanotubes with Aluminum Oxide Lowers Risk of Lung Injury October 6th, 2014

Nanobiotechnology

Tiny carbon nanotube pores make big impact October 29th, 2014

Molecular beacons shine light on how cells 'crawl' October 27th, 2014

Breakthrough in molecular electronics paves the way for DNA-based computer circuits in the future: DNA-based programmable circuits could be more sophisticated, cheaper and simpler to make October 27th, 2014

NYU Researchers Break Nano Barrier to Engineer the First Protein Microfiber October 23rd, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE





  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE