Ok, you probably won’t hear that one around the lab (taste-testing the nano-gold is a strict no-no), but researchers have discovered a way to replace the toxic chemicals typically used to make gold nanoparticles with cinnamon.
“The procedure we have developed is non-toxic,” Kannan said. “No chemicals are used in the generation of gold nanoparticles, except gold salts. It is a true ‘green’ process.”
The cinnamon takes the place of the toxic agents that remove the gold particles from gold salts, explains Popular Science:
There are several ways to produce gold particles, but most involve dissolving chloroauric acid, also called gold salts, in liquid and adding chemicals to precipitate gold atoms. Common mixtures include sodium citrates, sodium borohydride (also used to bleach wood pulp) and ammonium compounds.
We’ve asked tiny nanostructures to thwart counterfeiters, heal wounds, and boost computing power. Now, we want to eat them. Researchers have made “all-natural metal-organic frameworks”–and hope their creations’ edible frames may find use storing small molecules in foods and medical devices.
Though researchers have made similar metal-organic frameworks since 1999, most of the structures require chemicals from crude oil. As described in a recently published Angewandte Chemie paper, this team has devised a cheaper method employing starch molecules leftover from corn production.
The trick was to make a substance crystallize as a highly ordered, symmetrical, porous framework. Getting tiny symmetrical structures from asymmetrical natural ingredients had seemed unlikely, but the team found the perfect molecule cages, using a special type of sugar (gamma-cyclodextrin) from the cornstarch and potassium salt. After dissolving gamma-cyclodextrin and potassium salt in water, they crystallized them to form the nano storage cubes.
Despite the sugar and salt combo, the nanostructures are not that tasty, team member Ronald Smaldone says in a press release:
“They taste kind of bitter, like a Saltine cracker, starchy and bland…. But the beauty is that all the starting materials are nontoxic, biorenewable and widely available…”
We also can’t imagine they’re that filling.
Discoblog: How Butterfly Wing Patterns Could Thwart Counterfeiting Crooks
80beats: Nanoparticles + Stem Cells = Faster Healing Wounds
80beats: “DNA Origami” May Allow Chip Makers to Keep Up With Moore’s Law
80beats: Spitzer Telescope Finds Buckyballs… in Spaaace!
Image: flickr / Kerrie Longo
These researchers want to take their butterflies to the bank. They’ve found a way to mimic the nanostructures responsible for giving butterfly wings their colors, and they think butterfly-inspired money designs might hinder counterfeiters.
“We still need to refine our system, but in future we could see structures based on butterflies wings shining from a £10 note or even our passports,” said Mathias Kolle in a university press release. Kolle researched the butterfly’s wing structure with Ullrich Steiner and Jeremy Baumberg at the University of Cambridge.
Butterfly wings don’t use traditional pigment for their flair. Instead, they rely on the way light bounces off tiny multilayer structures on their wings. These micro- and nanostructures come in a variety of shapes (see the “egg carton-like” scanning electron microscope picture below), and scientists have long had inklings as to how different structures result in different colors. But Kolle and colleagues have gone one step further, managing the elusive task of copying this craft.
Imagine a day in the future when a soldier could just roll out of bed, pull on a cotton T-shirt, and head out into a combat zone, without worrying about taking a bullet through the chest.
An international team of scientists from Switzerland, China, and the United States have moved one step closer towards the goal of a bulletproof T-shirt by combining cotton with boron carbide–the third hardest material known on earth and the stuff used to armor battle tanks.
Chemistry World reports:
Modern military forces use plates of boron carbide (B4C) as ceramic inserts for bulletproof clothing but these can restrict mobility, so the design of a nanocomposite — where B4C is used to reinforce another material — could provide the perfect balance of strength and flexibility.
Because there’s no point in building a nanoscopic car that couldn’t crush other nanoscopic cars in a race, Rice University scientists have rolled out their best and baddest “nanodragster” ever. The car, 1/25,000th the size of a human hair, not only has a freely moving chassis but also can turn when one of its wheels is up in the air.
James Tour and his team previously made tiny cars that used carbon-60 molecules called “buckyballs” as wheels, but those wheels could turn on only hot surfaces, about 200 degrees Celsius. No longer. From Futurity.org:
An Argonne National Laboratory scientist thinks he has developed a better way to recycle a ubiquitous scourge of the environment—the plastic bag.
New Scientist reports:
Waste plastic from “throwaway” carrier bags can be readily converted into carbon nanotubes. The chemist who developed the technique has even used the nanotubes to make lithium-ion batteries.
This is called “upcycling” – converting a waste product into something more valuable. Finding ways to upcycle waste could encourage more recycling…
The process isn’t cheap, however. It involves an expensive catalyst in cobalt acetate, which is not easily recovered, to convert the high or low-density polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE) into carbon nanotubes. But if the nanotubes are then used to make lithium-ion or lithium-air batteries, that might overcome this problem, since these batteries are already recycled at the end of their use to recover cobalt.
Getting the bags to a recycling facility in the first place may be a hurdle as well. As the picture above shows, asking the public to put forth any effort sometimes seems to be asking too much.
80beats: How to Make a Battery Out of Office Paper & Nanotubes
DISCOVER: The World’s Largest Garbage Dump: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Discoblog: Prison for Plastic? Indian City Initiates Harsh Penalties for Using Plastic Bags
Discoblog: It’s In the Bag! Teenager Wins Science Fair, Solves Massive Environmental Problem
DISCOVER: 9 Ways Carbon Nanotubes Just Might Rock the World
Image: flickr / Sam Felder
Remember Solar Impulse, the piloted, solar-powered plane that would circumnavigate the globe? Well, it took its first test flight this week, leading to a round of huzzahs from the press. However, you might want to contain the enthusiasm a little, because both “solar” and “flight” are a tad misleading.
“Hop,” as the BBC called the test, is more like it. Solar Impulse got airborne for 30 seconds, though that allowed it to travel 350 meters. And as you can see in the image, the plane didn’t exactly reach the stratosphere. As far as “solar” is concerned, the plane’s solar panels weren’t even hooked up. It ran on battery power.
That’s fine; Solar Impulse will have to run on battery power when it eventually reaches the night stages of its round-the-world trip. We hope the project is eventually a rousing success, but this was a non-solar test.
While we know that nanotechnology has been used to improve products such as Miller Lite beer and tennis balls, news of a nanotech-made swimsuit that reportedly “dries itself” is here just in time for spring break. And while the SwimSport would likely never make it into Victoria Secret swimsuit line, it might become a hit if it can do what it promises: repel water and keep beachgoers dry.
The Brooklyn-based company Sun Dry Swim, which makes the SwimSport, uses an invisible, non-toxic mesh. Since “water cannot adhere to the material and the fibers cannot soak up liquid,” the water beads off the suit the same way it rolls off your skin. The whole suit is made of the mesh material, so the suit can look and feel like a normal one-piece.
Tired of running out of cell phone juice in the middle of a conversation? A professor at Texas A&M University may have just the answer for turning your chatter into power.
Chemical engineering professor, Tahir Cagin is using piezoelectrics, a material made of either crystals or ceramics, to generate electricity. Piezoelectrics were used in World War I in sonar devices. Today, they’re found in microphones, inkjet printers, and even cigarette lighters. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is making a shoe with piezoelectrics that can change the energy created by walking into electric power for charging soldiers’ equipment. Some European clubs even use them to transform the dance power from late night partiers into power to light up the club.
Cagin discovered that when piezoelectrics are small and thin (between 20 and 23 nanometers to be exact), twice the amount of energy is created. By finding the ideal length, he was able to convert the mechanical energy it creates into electric power.
Cell phones are fragile: One slip of the fingers and yours can be headed for a disastrous meeting with the sidewalk, leaving you headed to the store for a replacement. Once again, however, nanotechnology might be coming to our rescue.
Clemson University scientists led by Apparao Rao say they’ve created a new process to help make phones, car bumpers, or other often-broken items a little more resilient. The researchers built beds of tiny coiled carbon nanotubes that act as spring-like shock absorbers, protecting the object from a fall or collision.