Xcience Newsletter January 2017


 IMAGE: The structure of the largest gold nanoparticle to-date, Au246(SR)80, was resolved using x-ray crystallography. Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

Metallic Hydrogen

One of the recent scientific highlights which has caused a stir is the report that scientists at Harvard have produced metallic hydrogen. Thomas D. Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences Isaac Silvera and postdoctoral fellow Ranga Dias used a diamond anvil to exert an extremely high pressure of 495 GPa – that’s about the pressure at the earths core, to produce a tiny sample of the material. They think that that the material could be superconducting at room temperature, but also comment that the amount of stored energy is so great, it could make the most powerful rocket propellant known to man! [1]


Detecting Proteins

Researchers at MIT have succeeded in developing a sensor based on a chemically modified carbon nanotube which they claim can detect secretion of a protein from a single cell. The technique utilises changes in fluorescence under laser light irradiance and Prof Michael Strano notes that the technique could be used for tracking vial infections, monitoring cell performance, food contamination, neurotransmitter function, and a phenomenon called quorum sensing, which allows bacteria to communicate with each other to coordinate their gene expression. [2]


Frog Spit

Now here’s a sticky problem. Scientists have been puzzling over how a frog copes with its sticky tongue, which it uses very effectively to strike and stick to an insect with a force of 5G to catch a meal. But how does it detach the prey when it retracts inside it’s mouth? Researchers at Georgia Tech have found that the frog’s saliva has reversible properties - a high viscosity when outside the mouth, but thin and watery when inside the mouth. In addition to this, the tongue tissue is incredibly soft – ten times softer than a human tongue, which helps it conform to the shape of the insect to maximise adhesion. Check out the video [3]


Breakthrough in Hi Res Holograms

Inspired by Star Wars, Lei Wang and Dr Sergey Kruk at Australia National University have developed a hologram system comprising millions of nanoscale silicon pillars, each up to 500 times thinner than a human hair. "By structuring materials at the nanoscale allows the device to achieve new optical properties that go beyond the properties of natural materials This new material is transparent, which means it loses minimal energy from the light, and it also does complex manipulations with light," said Dr Kruk from the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering. The result is the highest resolution holograms ever seen [4]

Night Vision

Forget carrots – another development from ANU promises a new generation of night vision goggles, or even built into spectacles. ‘The nano crystals are so small they could be fitted as an ultra-thin film to normal eye glasses to enable night vision," said Professor Neshev from the Nonlinear Physics Centre within the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering [5]

Wire We Waiting?

Wireless charging is not new, and one wonders why it hasn’t become ubiquitous, but at least DELL are soon launching a new tablet, the 7285 notebook, which charges wirelessly. Charging is achieved by placing on a mat, developed by WiTricity, which is an optional extra [6].

 Large Nanoparticles

Creating large nanoparticles with a complexity similar to those found in nature has been a challenge for researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. However, they have announced the successful self assembly synthesis of Au246 which exhibits intricate patterns similar to those seen in structures such as DNA. The work by Rongchao Jin and Chenjie Zeng initially looked at Au133. During production, the Au133 particles self-assemble into three layers within each particle: the gold core, the surface molecules that protect it and the interface between the two. In the crystal structure, Zeng discovered that the gold core is in the shape of an icosahedron. At the interface between the core and the surface-protecting molecules is a layer of sulphur atoms that bind with the gold atoms. The sulphur-gold-sulphur combinations stack into ladder-like helical structures. Finally, attached to the sulphur molecules is an outer layer of surface-protecting molecules whose carbon tails self-assemble into fourfold swirls. “The helical features remind us of a DNA double helix and the rotating arrangement of the carbon tails is reminiscent of the way our galaxy is arranged. It’s really amazing,” Jin said [7]

Domain Name Scam

The Patent Office warns of being contacted by a bogus ‘Trade Marks Intellectual Property Office’ which is a scam aiming to trick you into ‘purchasing’ your own domain name [9]

EVENT: CALL FOR PAPERS: Nanosurfaces 2017, 25th May London

Nanosurfaces are being developed for functional applications in industry, and include thin (<100nm) nanocoatings, nanostructured coatings, and nanoparticle-enhanced coatings. With new processes being developed and scaled up, the field is gaining ground with applications including replacements for hexavalent chrome, wear resistance, corrosion protection, optical effects for glazing and solar cells, anti-microbial, electronic, aesthetic and sensing.

This new event will feature presentations from commercial nanocoatings companies, and latest research developments, primarily in a poster session.

Now calling for papers - deadline for abstract submission is Friday 24 February 2017


 More info…

  1. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/01/a-breakthrough-in-high-pressure-physics/
  2. Markita Patricia Landry et al. Single-molecule detection of protein efflux from microorganisms using fluorescent single-walled carbon nanotube sensor arrays, Nature Nanotechnology (2017). DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2016.284
  3. http://www.news.gatech.edu/2017/01/31/reversible-saliva-allows-frogs-hang-next-meal
  4. Lei Wang et al. Grayscale transparent metasurface holograms, Optica (2016). DOI: 10.1364/OPTICA.3.001504
  5. http://www.anu.edu.au/news/all-news/anu-invention-to-inspire-new-night-vision-specs
  6. http://newatlas.com/dell-wireless-charging-laptop/47271/?li_source=LI&li_medium=default-widget
  7. http://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2015/april/gold-nanoparticles.html
  8. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/domain-name-scam