Researchers Use Tensegrity to Create Self-Assembling, Transforming Nanodevices Made out of DNA

Diagram of nanodevice built out of DNA using tensegrity

By emulating nature’s design principles, a team at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute has created nanodevices made of DNA that self-assemble and can be programmed to move and change shape on demand. In contrast to existing nanotechnologies, these programmable nanodevices are highly suitable for medical applications because DNA is both biocompatible and biodegradable.

Harvard Medical School: Researchers create self-assembling nanodevices that move and change shape on demand

(via Edge of Tomorrow)

Ultra cheap nanochips could be built from DNA

DNA waffle

In his latest set of experiments, Chris Dwyer, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering, demonstrated that by simply mixing customized snippets of DNA and other molecules, he could create literally billions of identical, tiny, waffle-looking structures.

Dwyer has shown that these nanostructures will efficiently self-assemble, and when different light-sensitive molecules are added to the mixture, the waffles exhibit unique and “programmable” properties that can be readily tapped. Using light to excite these molecules, known as chromophores, he can create simple logic gates, or switches.

PhysOrg: DNA could be backbone of next generation logic chips

(via Theoretick)

Artificial photosynthesis achieved with nanotechnology and a virus

Angela Belcher

A team of MIT researchers has found a novel way to mimic the process by which plants use the power of sunlight to split water and make chemical fuel to power their growth. In this case, the team used a modified virus as a kind of biological scaffold that can assemble the nanoscale components needed to split the hydrogen and oxygen atoms of a water molecule.

Splitting water is one way to solve the basic problem of solar energy: It’s only available when the sun shines. By using sunlight to make hydrogen from water, the hydrogen can then be stored and used at any time to generate electricity using a fuel cell, or to make liquid fuels (or be used directly) for cars and trucks.

MIT News: Viruses harnessed to split water

(via Edge of Tomorrow)

Computer-Controlled Swarm of Bacteria Builds Tiny Pyramid

bacteria build pyramid

Who needs nanobots when you can control a swarm of bacteria to do your bidding?

Researchers at the NanoRobotics Laboratory of the École Polytechnique de Montréal, in Canada, are putting swarms of bacteria to work, using them to perform micro-manipulations and even propel microrobots.

Led by Professor Sylvain Martel, the researchers want to use flagellated bacteria to carry drugs into tumors, act as sensing agents for detecting pathogens, and operate micro-factories that could perform pharmacological and genetic tests.

They also want to use the bacteria as micro-workers for building things. Things like a tiny step pyramid. […]

The bacteria, of a type known as magnetotactic, contain structures called magnetosomes, which function as a compass. In the presence of a magnetic field, the magnetosomes induce a torque on the bacteria, making them swim according to the direction of the field. Place a magnetic field pointing right and the bacteria will move right. Switch the field to point left and the bacteria will follow suit.

IEEE: Computer-Controlled Swarm of Bacteria Builds Tiny Pyramid

(via Popular Science via Edge of Tomorrow)

See also:

Researchers rapidly turn E. coli into biotech factories

Nanodrugs to target specific parts of the body

dr mario

The day when patients can “swallow their doctor” has come a step closer with the development of a submicroscopic nanoparticle that acts as an intelligent pill to deliver drugs when and where they are needed in the body.

Each nanoparticle is built to target a specific part of the body and to release their drugs in a controlled manner over a given period of time. They are so small that millions of them could be injected into the bloodstream without harming healthy tissues.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge have designed the first nanoparticles designed to target the walls of the arteries around the heart. They bind specifically to the proteins that only stick out from the inner lining of the these blood vessels when they are damaged.

Once the nanoparticles take up position in the diseased arteries they are programmed to release small quantities of drugs over several weeks or months to help cardiovascular patients to recover without exposing other parts of the body to much higher doses of potentially toxic drugs.

Under the weather? Just swallow a doctor

(via Disinfo)

Chemical gel could be used for non-electronic robots and more

It seems like electronics-free robots is only the tip of the iceberg:

A chemical gel that can walk like an inchworm, or looper caterpillar has been demonstrated in a Japanese robotics lab.

The video above shows the material in action. It was created in the Shuji Hashimoto applied physics laboratory at Waseda University, Tokyo.

Shingo Maeda and colleagues made the colour-changing, motile gel by combining polymers that change in size depending on their chemical environment. This is based on an oscillating chemical reaction called the Belousov–Zhabotinsky (BZ) reaction. The result is an autonomous material that moves without electronic stimulation.

The BZ reaction is one of a class of chemical systems in which the concentration of one or more compounds periodically increases and decreases. As well as producing stunning patterns (video), it can even be used to perform calculations using a dish containing the pulsing patterns as a chemical brain.

New Scientist: Chemical ‘caterpillar’ points to electronics-free robots

(via Grinding)

Little Tech Wins Big as Nanocar Inventor Takes Top Science Award

“The inventor of a car slightly wider than a strand of DNA took the top prize in nanotechnologies this week. James Tour, a professor of chemistry at Rice University, won the Foresight Institute Feynman Prize for experimental nanotechnology for his nanocar, which is four nanometers across and includes a chassis with an engine, a pivoting suspension and rotating axles attached to rolling buckyball wheels, each made of 60 carbon atoms.

Tour and his team of postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers not only built a car, but also constructed a nanotruck capable of carrying a payload. Asked why he did it, Tour’s answer was simple: so that we can someday construct buildings and other large objects with molecular-size vehicles.

It took Tour and his team eight years to build the car. One of the significant challenges was attaching the wheels because the buckyballs had the adverse affect of shutting down the binding property — the palladium reaction — used to form the rest of the vehicle. Over the next 30 years, Tour’s nanotechnology could produce quantum-dot memory, which involves stringing together metal atoms in patterns that could then store data. Each quantum dot would consist of 50 metal atoms, he said. Of course, that’s a long way off, Tour acknowledged. He hasn’t even patented the technology because by the time it could be used to make money, the patents would be expired. And we’re not talking about a few nanotrucks carrying metal atoms to construct skyscrapers but 1023 or more vehicles, all carrying nanoparticles in orchestration, he said.”

(via ComputerWorld via Sue Lange’s blog “Singularity Watch”)

Unforeseen risks of nanoparticles

A broad array of consumer and medical products employ billionths-of-a-meter scale silver particles as embedded disinfectants. A study now suggests that if those nanoparticles get loose and into the body, they might wreak havoc with the human immune system. Documented effects occurred at very low concentrations — levels as minute as parts per trillion or even, sometimes, one-thousandth that much (i.e. parts per quadrillion).

Perturbing immunity could, of course, be very bad.

Full Story: Science News

(via Robot Wisdom)

Study Says Carbon Nanotubes as Dangerous as Asbestos

Inhaling carbon nanotubes could be as harmful as breathing in asbestos, and its use should be regulated lest it lead to the same cancer and breathing problems that prompted a ban on the use of asbestos as insulation in buildings, according a new study posted online today by Nature Nanotechnology.

During the study, led by the Queen’s Medical Research Institute at the University of Edinburgh/MRC Center for Inflammation Research (CIR) in Scotland, scientists observed that long, thin carbon nanotubes look and behave like asbestos fibers, which have been shown to cause mesothelioma , a deadly cancer of the membrane lining the body’s internal organs (in particular the lungs) that can take 30 to 40 years to appear following exposure. Asbestos fibers are especially harmful, because they are small enough to penetrate deep into the lungs yet too long for the body’s immune system to destroy.

Full Story: Scientific American

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