After work by Stanford University found that carbon nanotubes don’t seem to have any detrimental effect inside the bodies of mice, researchers are looking for more ways of utilising the growing technology in medicine. DARPA has awarded a grant to Rice university to study whether a carbon nanotube based pill would be a good way of treating radiation sickness. Radiation in the body deforms cells and molecules, releasing terribly damaging free radicals which then cause more damage to the body.
“More than half of those who suffer acute radiation injury die within 30 days, not from the initial radioactive particles themselves but from the devastation they cause in the immune system, the gastrointestinal tract and other parts of the body. Ideally, we’d like to develop a drug that can be administered within 12 hours of exposure and prevent deaths from what are currently fatal exposure doses of ionizing radiation,” said James Tour, Rice University’s Chao Professor of Chemistry and director of Rice’s Carbon Nanotechnology Laboratory.
The Carbon pills would absorb large quanties of the radiation within the body, as well as the free radicals, which could dramatically cut down on the post-exposure spread of damaged cells. As DailyTech mention in their article about the discovery, video game Fallout had carbon-based anti-radiation pills way back in 1997. The third Fallout game is being released this year by the makers of Oblivion, Bethesda, for your post-apocalyptic gaming pleasure.
[story and Fallout 3 teaser poster via DailyTech]
According to researchers at Tsinghua University, nanotubes made from Boron could have many of the same properties as nanotubes made from carbon – and for some electronic applications, they should even be better than carbon:
Accoring to Xiaobao Yang, Yi Ding and Jun Ni from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, the best configuration for boron is to take the unstable hexagon lattice and add an extra atom to the centre of some of the hexagons. They calculate that this is the most stable known theoretical structure for a boron nanotube.
Their simulation also shows that, with this pattern, boron nanotubes should have variable electrical properties: wider ones would be metallic conductors, but narrower ones should be semiconductors. If so, then boron tubes might be used in nanodevices similar to the diodes and transistors that have already been made from carbon nanotubes.
There are enough bad peat puns in the article, so I’ll spare you any in the headline here. Conventional wisdom regarding climate change dictates that as temperatures rise, the frozen lands in the north will release methane that has been locked in the ground. Methane is regarded as being 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat, so this phenomenon would likely accelerate global warming.
As bad as it may seem, it may not be quite so. A five year study done by ecologists at Michigan State University in East Lansing has found that as the frozen peatlands thaw out, they become wetter and provide fertile ground for fast-growing water plants which will suck up carbon dioxide, thus offsetting some of the methane release.
Of course, it won’t be a one-for-one tradeoff. And as the wetlands fill in, the water plants will be replaced by slower-growing dryland plants and trees. These new northern forests aren’t nearly as good at reducing global warming as the tropical ones.
So there you go. We’re still going down the tubes, just not quite as quickly as people thought before. Well, I’m off for a drink.
(via SciTech Daily Review) (image via brewbooks)