Carbon Nanotube Sponge Could Suck Up Oil Spills

A new carbon sponge can soak up 180 times its own weight in organic matter

Spongebob may want to look into a nanotech upgrade that could permit him to walk on water. Chinese scientists have created carbon nanotube sponges that don't absorb water, leaving them plenty of room for absorbing oil or other icky organic goo.

The new sponges rely upon interconnected carbon nanotubes that naturally repel water, and can absorb 180 times their weight in organic matter. Current sponges used for oil spill cleanups and industrial applications can only absorb up to 20 times their own weight.

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Nanoparticles Can Damage DNA Without Crossing Cellular Barrier

Metal nanoparticles use a newly observed cell signal process to wreak havoc indirectly

Scientists know that nanoparticles can damage DNA in cells through direct interaction. Now, though, it appears that nanoparticles can also mess with DNA on the far side of a cellular barrier, by creating signaling molecules -- a never-before-seen phenomenon.

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Yeast Cells Armored in Silica Could Herald Future Nanotech Experiments

Korean researchers encapsulate living yeast cells in synthetic silica armor and watch what happens

In an interesting experiment, researchers sheathed living yeast cells in armor of silica. The cells survived, and emerged as unusual armored versions of themselves that could become building blocks for nanotech applications.

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Singularity Summit 2009: The Singularity Is Near

We'll be blogging live from the Singularity Summit this weekend

Ray Kurzweil wasn't like the other nice, Jewish boys he grew up with in Queens. While they were putting baseball cards in the spokes of their bikes, Ray was writing computer programs and shaking hands with the President. Now, those other kids from the neighborhood are doctors and lawyers, and Kurzweil is a techno-prophet whose book, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, changed our discourse on technology with its bold predictions about the coming merger between man and machine.

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Self-Regulated Morphine Delivery for Wounded Warfighters

DARPA-funded nanotech drug automatically regulates its morphine dose on the battlefield

Medics still use morphine to relieve the pain of wounded soldiers on the modern battlefield, but have to watch out for morphine reducing breathing and blood pressure to dangerous levels. That may all change with a DARPA-backed combination drug that has successfully limited morphine delivery when it detects low blood oxygen levels.

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Carbon Nanotubes Shown to Boost Plant Growth, Could Spawn Super-Fertilizers

Carbon nanotubes have improved existing technologies in fields ranging from electrical circuitry to architecture to materials science. So is it any surprise that when researchers in Arkansas applied the miraculous microscopic structures to tomato seeds, the plants grew faster, stronger, and more plentifully?

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UCSB Scientists Create Cancer-Stopping Nanoparticle-and-Laser Treatment

Nanotechnology, lasers, genetics, and cancer? If there was also something about space, this story might have been a PopSci full house. Scientists at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB), have figured out a way to deliver cancer-stopping RNA directly into the nucleus of a diseased cell. To get into the nucleus, the RNA is wrapped in special gold nanoshells which are then selectively opened by a laser.

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China Reports the First Human Nano-Fatalities

Two women in China have achieved the dubious honor of being the first humans to be killed by nanotechnology. The women, who worked in a poorly ventilated factory spraying a paint that contained nanoparticles, reportedly inhaled the particles over a period of months. The tiny compounds infiltrated the workers' lungs and skin, causing lung damage, fluid buildup, and eventual respiratory failure.

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IBM Scientists Harness DNA Self-Assembly to Build Faster, Cheaper Chips

The next generation of semiconductor technology could take a page from nature’s book, letting DNA do the heavy lifting. Straight-laced researchers at IBM, afraid of breaking Moore’s Law, have figured out a way to combine lithographic patterning and DNA self-assembly to create semiconductors that built themselves into chips that are smaller, more efficient and less expensive than anything made conventionally.

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Precision Nanoscale Car Parts Self-Assembled From DNA

Scientists program DNA to fold in tightly controlled curves and circles—an important step toward building larger nanomachines.

In the macro world, the construction shapes available to us are numerous, and the tools to build them are straightforward. But nanoarchitecture has always been much more limited -- first to two dimensions, then to only certain kinds of three-dimensional shapes. This week, scientists have broadened the possibilities for nano-building, programming DNA to bend itself into complicated custom curves. The researchers revealed their creations in the current issue of Science: a group of tight little gears, tubes, and a wireframe ball.

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First Ever Nanoscale Mass Spectrometer

When I was taking chemistry in college, the mass spectrometer was a desk-mounted machine about twice the size of a PC. Oh, how times do change. Researchers at the California Institute of Technology have created the first nanoscale mass spectrometer. Only four micrometers across, the device can measure the mass of single molecules in an entirely novel way.

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Scientists Design Versatile Self-Assembling Nanogears

For years, creating the gears and sprockets needed to make a microscopic robot has required the expensive and time-consuming process of silicon etching. Carving out each individual piece with a laser has made producing more than a couple of pieces prohibitively difficult and costly.

A team at Columbia University now seems to have found a way around that problem. By laying a thin sheet of metal over a special layer of polymer, the team has created nanogears that assemble themselves, opening the possibility of much faster, cheaper, widespread production.

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In a Teeny Landslide, Team Zurich Sweeps Nanosoccer Finals

Nanosoccer Field:  NIST

In the recent Robocup 2009 games, in which robots compete for prizes and glory, entrants from many nations held their own. In categories including small, medium, humanoid, 2-D simulation, and 3-D simulation, teams from the U.S., China, Germany, Iran, and quite a few other robot-producing countries played and won.

However, on the smallest playing field of all, there was one clear winner.

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Nanotech Could Boost Geothermal Power and Reduce Earthquake Risk

Tapping geothermal sources for power has proven a tricky proposition, because of costs and hazards associated with deep drilling. But researchers may have stumbled on a way to boost the power-producing potential of low-temperature hot springs close to the Earth's surface, using nanotechnology.

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Coffee Drinkers, Say Hello to Scald-Proof Nanofabric

Anyone who's ever spilled a hot beverage in his or her lap will be happy to hear that chemists at the University of Minnesota have announced a scaldproof fabric.

Water-resistant fabric, of course, has already existed for some time -- but its impermeability applies only to cool liquids. Hot coffee, scalding soup, and other liquids above a certain temperature, on the other hand, seep right through water-resistant cloth.

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