Viruses for nanotech components

Tom James @ 02-06-2009

virusTurns out viruses are good for more than just killing cancer cells. Researchers at MIT have developed a method whereby viruses are coated with iron phosphate, then attached to carbon nanotubes, thus creating  the building-blocks of nanoscale electrical components:

This advanced ‘bio-industrial’ manufacturing process, which uses biological agents to assemble molecules, could help to evolve key energy material components (e.g. cathodes, anodes, membranes) used in batteries, fuel cells, solar cells and organic electronics (e.g. OLEDs).

It’s interesting to see how researchers are making use of the native biological territory instead of reinventing the wheel when it comes to nanotechnology – using viruses to make nanomaterials to make power cells.

[from Future Blogger][image from noii’s on flickr]


A brief word on a new supermaterial

Tom James @ 05-05-2009

graphene-transistorGraphene: a material consisting of a sheet of carbon atoms one atom thick. Graphene was first identified only a few years ago, and has since been proferred for all sorts of uses, including ultracapacitors, spintronics, and now as a light source:

Microchips is just one of the material’s potential applications. Because of its single-atom thickness, pure graphene is transparent, and can be used to make transparent electrodes for light-based applications such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or improved solar cells.

It is also apparently very strong:

The mobility of electrons in graphene — a measure of how easily electrons can flow within it — is by far the highest of any known material. So is its strength, which is, pound for pound, 200 times that of steel.

The problem is to find a way to mass-manufacture it:

The trick that enabled the first demonstrations of the existence of graphene as a real separate material came when researchers at the University of Manchester applied sticky tape to a block of graphite and then carefully peeled off tiny fragments of graphene and placed them on the smooth surface of another material.

“They don’t care if they go to a lot of effort to make five tiny pieces, they can study those for years.” But when it comes to possible commercial applications, it’s essential to find ways of producing the material in greater quantities.

[from Physorg][image from Physorg]


Memristors – The new component of electronics

Tomas Martin @ 01-05-2008

A new component of electronics, first proposed in 1971, has been built by researchers at Hewlett Packard. Memristors join the three existing main components of a circuit – capacitors, resistors and inductors. The main feature of a memristor is its ability to ‘remember’ what charge it had when power runs through it.

Today, most PCs use dynamic random access memory (DRAM) which loses data when the power is turned off. But a computer built with memristors could allow PCs that start up instantly, laptops that retain sessions after the battery dies, or mobile phones that can last for weeks without needing a charge. “If you turn on your computer it will come up instantly where it was when you turned it off,” Professor Williams told Reuters.

In addition the memristor is very small and once fully commercialised could allow computer chips far smaller than those today, giving good old Moore’s Law another reprieve as conventional methods to keep it going begin to run out of steam.

[via BBC]