Updates and Some Nanotechnology Developments

In doing research for an upcoming published paper, I ran across an interesting article.  In September 2019, a research article was published that postulated the worst case situation for a worldwide pandemic, of unknown origins, might have a devastating impact on the world.  This was the first annual report by the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board [Ref. 1].  This paper was published before the evidence of the coronavirus (COVID-19) was detected.  Consequently, these hypothetical findings were transferred to the projections of coronavirus impact.

In a related area, it appears that there are more instances of publications of faulty or purposely misleading scientific and medical research, even by prestigious researchers [Ref. 2, 3].  Whether it is researchers who refuse to provide details on their models or experts that have a segment of researchers in their field insisting on retracting papers, the overall effect is to build a distrust in any research that is published.  This will have serious consequences when the general public develops an attitude that all scientific pronouncements are not to be believed.

Back to nanotechnology.  A team from Binghamton University lead by Pu Zhang developed a liquid metal lattice material [Ref. 4].  The basic concept of the material is that a silicone shell holds the metal composite together, so the material can be crushed but is able to return to its original form.  The metal composite has a melting point of 62C, which enables a restructuring possible using heated water.  The concept relies on the shell to return to its original form.  Without that shell, the liquid metal would become a blob of metal.  In its solid form, the material is very strong and stable.  If is much more resistant to deformation than similar property-type polymers that are able to be reshaped.    

From Queensland University of Technology comes some computational studies that diamond-like carbon nanothreads could be employed in a strained mechanical battery system [Ref. 5].  As described in the referenced article: First described in 2015,  nanothreads joined a catalogue of carbon nanomaterials that have emerged over the past four decades. Nanothreads are 1D structures with carbon atoms linked by single bonds (like those in diamond) to three other carbon atoms and a hydrogen atom. Where the hydrogen atom is missing, the carbon atom may bond to a fourth carbon atom in an adjacent thread. This bonding contrasts with the hexagonal carbon lattices found in buckyballs, carbon nanotubes and graphene. In these materials, electron orbitals from each carbon atom are shared between just three other carbon atoms.” It is interesting to note that Penn State University has a National Science Foundation Center for Nanothread Chemistry.  There should be some interesting research coming from this new Center.

Medicine is moving into the nano realm to study and obtain insights about amyloid plaques [Ref. 6].  These amyloid plaques are characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases.  (Diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.)  These plaques are abnormal aggregates that have been linked to numerous diseases.  The goal of the research was to understand the structure of the plaques.  In order to accomplish their study, it required for the development of a new aspect of microscopy.  Their “super” resolution microscopy involves the latest in high resolution equipment with the addition of a dual channel polarized fluorescence light.  With their invention, they are able to observe the working of the molecules interacting with the plaques. 

There is the annual SEMICon West conference occurring next month (July).  This year it is virtual.  There will be a number of presentations on the issues/challenges as semiconductor devices have to overcome as the dimensions go lower into the single digit nanometers.  This is one area where nanotechnology is very much in the forefront of new developments.

References:

  1. https://apps.who.int/gpmb/assets/annual_report/GPMB_annualreport_2019.pdf
  2. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-lancets-politicized-science-on-antimalarial-drugs-11591053222?mod=hp_opin_pos_3
  3. https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/may/9/covid-19-puts-spotlight-science-scientists-often-l/
  4. https://physicsworld.com/a/new-material-could-be-used-to-make-a-liquid-metal-robot/?
  5. https://physicsworld.com/a/diamond-nanothreads-could-beat-batteries-for-energy-storage-theoretical-study-suggests/?
  6. https://physicsworld.com/a/super-resolution-microscopy-reveals-nanoscale-details-of-amyloid-protein-structures/?

About Walt

I have been involved in various aspects of nanotechnology since the late 1970s. My interest in promoting nano-safety began in 2006 and produced a white paper in 2007 explaining the four pillars of nano-safety. I am a technology futurist and is currently focused on nanoelectronics, single digit nanomaterials, and 3D printing at the nanoscale. My experience includes three startups, two of which I founded, 13 years at SEMATECH, where I was a Senior Fellow of the technical staff when I left, and 12 years at General Electric with nine of them on corporate staff. I have a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, an MBA from James Madison University, and a B.S. in Physics from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

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