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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

3M Patent Reveals Method of Dry Coating Fuel Cell Flow Field Plates for Increased Durability

3M Innovative Properties Company (Saint Paul, MN) received U.S. Patent 7,687,100 for a  simple and inexpensive method of making a fuel cell flow field plates that exhibit increased durability under conditions of use.

According to inventor Mark K Debe (Stillwater, MN) the manufacturing method includes the steps of applying a dry carbon powder to a flow field surface of the flow field plate and buffing the carbon powder onto the flow field surface. In some embodiments, the method includes the steps of rubbing a flow field surface of the flow field plate with a dry carbon solid and optionally buffing the carbon onto the flow field surface.

The dry carbon powder is selected from the group consisting of graphite powder, amorphous carbon powder, carbon black powder, carbon nanotubes, fullerenes, soot and combinations of the materials.  The amount of dry carbon powder can range in weight from 5% to less than 1%, and is typically less than 1% by weight. The dry carbon powder is typically 10 microns or less is size but may be as large as 1,000 microns.

Several full sized plates of a fuel cell stack were coated with dry graphite layer using the procedure developed by 3M. Both sides of each plate were coated. Other plates were left uncoated. The plates were then assembled into a fuel cell stack. The stack was then operated at a constant current density of 0.72 A/cm.sup.2 at 80.degree. C. under reformate/air (1.5/2.0 stoich) for .about.350 hours. The plate-to-plate contact resistance induced voltage drop was monitored periodically during the test for all the cell interfaces and found to be changing very slowly for all at a very small rate of <0.16 mV/hour, with the graphitic coated interfaces showing the lowest rate of 0.091 mV/hour. The stack temperature was then increased to 90.degree. C. for an additional 350 hours, and the rate of voltage increase was on average of 0.15 to 0.28 mV/hr for all the cell types, with the graphitic coating at the highest value.

The stack was then disassembled and the plates inspected for evidence of corrosion. The visual appearance of the plates was immediately seen to be very different. The graphite coated plates remained essentially unchanged in appearance, whereas the untreated control plates exhibited bluish and reddish iron oxide deposits. 

FIGS. 5 and 6 are photographs of the resulting untreated (comparative) plates (on the left) and graphitized plates (on the right) demonstrating that the graphite treatment appears to have prevented the corrosion on both the coolant side and the reactant sides of the stainless steel plates.
Source: U.S. Patent 7,687,100 

Micron Technology Patent Reveals Scalable High Performance Carbon Nanotube Field Effect Transistors

Micron Technology, Inc. (Boise, ID) scientist Gurtej Sandhu has developed structures and fabrication processes for producing carbon nanotube field effect transistors (FETs). The structure employs an asymmetric gate which is closer to the source and farther from the drain, which helps to minimize "off current" drain leakage when the drain is biased and the gate is otherwise off. The source and drain are preferably self-aligned to the gate, and preferably the gate is first defined as a conductive sidewall to an etched pad, according to U.S. Patent 7,687,841.

Dielectric sidewalls are then defined over the gate, which in turn defines the positioning of the source and drain in a predetermined spatial relationship to the gate. The source and drain comprise conductive sidewalls buttressing the dielectric sidewalls. The channel of the device preferably comprises randomly oriented carbon nanotubes formed on an insulative substrate and isolated from the gate by an insulative layer. The carbon nanotubes are exposed via the dielectric sidewall etch, thus ensuring the gate's self alignment with the subsequently-formed source and drain.
           
CNT FETs can be made with single-walled carbon nanotubes, or with multi-walled nanotubes (i.e., tubes within a tube and/or coiled sheets of carbon), and use of the disclosed techniques are likewise adaptable to the use of both types of nanotubes. Both types of tubes (single- or multi-walled) have different electrical properties, and the use of each can be benefited by the disclosed techniques by simply varying the CNT starting material (e.g., in the spin-on solvent). In fact, mixtures of single- and multi-walled carbon nanotubes could be used to fabricate a single transistor.

Moreover, the technique and transistor design disclosed are adaptable to the use of transistors which employ a single carbon nanotube as the conduction medium between the source and the drain. Should a single nanotube be used as the conduction medium, the disclosed techniques would need to be logically altered to locate such singular nanotubes at proper locations on the substrate.  

Reference to transistor terminals "source" and "drain" are synonymous in the context of an FET. Therefore, the disclosed transistor should be viewed as applicable to transistors in which the gate is also closer to the drain than to the source, as it is essentially random or a matter of preference as to what these terminals may be called in a particular transistor.

United Kingdom First in World to Publish Government Wide Strategy for Climate Change: "Carbon Reduction Delivery and Adaptation Plans"

The UK Government is the first in the world to publish plans that will set out how every major department will address the challenge of climate change in the UK.

The Carbon Reduction Delivery and Adaptation Plans detail each department’s commitment to minimize the damage of climate change, by reducing emissions and by preparing for inevitable change in the UK climate.

These plans are being published alongside a single overview of what Government is doing: Climate Change: Taking Action – Delivering the Low Carbon Transition Plan and preparing for a changing climate.

Publishing the plans Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said, ‘These plans demonstrate how each individual department will work to reduce emissions and adapt their own estates, operations and policies.

‘There can be no mistaking that some climate change is inevitable and we will need to adjust the way we live our lives to meet these new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities where possible. These plans are by no means the final word, but are a step towards the low carbon, well-adapted society that we need.’

Energy and Climate Change Minister Joan Ruddock said, “The overwhelming scientific evidence shows that human induced climate change poses a huge threat to the world and we must recognise the challenge this presents to all aspects of our economy and daily activities.

“These plans show Government’s clear and unwavering commitment to reducing emissions, increasing energy efficiency and providing greater opportunities in the low carbon economy.

“The UK is a leader in international efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change. By linking each department’s primary objectives to the challenges posed by climate change, government will lead by example.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change highlights that countries will experience further warming over at least the next 30-40 years due to past emissions because of the time lag in the climate system. In the UK we are likely to see warmer, wetter winters and hotter drier summers with increased risk of coastal erosion and severe weather. The UK Climate Projections suggest a range of possible temperature rises of +0.8 to +4 degrees by the 2040s for different areas of the

UK, compared to the 1961-1990 average temperature. Our actions now will determine how dramatic changes are in the longer term.

Carbon Delivery Reduction Plans set out for each department how the aims of the department relate to climate change, the measures they will be taking to ensure delivery of emissions reductions and the indicators and milestones being used to monitor progress. They are a recognition by Government that it is the responsibility of all departments to respond to climate change reflecting the fact that all activities have an impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

Departmental adaptation plans include measures to ensure that the agricultural sector is prepared for the changes in farming practices and can take advantage of new opportunities; adapting the built environment – from green infrastructure in urban areas, to how flooding risk is considered; investment to manage flood risk and coastal erosion; heatwave plans; encouraging adaptation skills in the economy from engineering, planning and architecture, to developing new products and services.

Alongside Climate Change Plans, the British Government has published information on further work to help deal with climate change, including:

  • New Sustainable Development in Government (SDiG) indicator targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions for its estates and operations across the whole of the Government estate and increasing the resilience of the Government estate to the impacts of climate change. Under the new targets, government will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 34 % by 2020 (from 1999/2000 levels) and increase waste recovery (recycling, external re-use, composting and energy from waste) to 80% of waste arisings by 2016/17.
     
  • New Government guidance to help Government departments and the public sector to use the procurement process to deliver well-adapted public buildings, services and goods
     
  • A discussion paper, The Natural Environment – Adapting to Climate Change, to stimulate debate about the future of our countryside in a changing climate.
           
 Other publications  include: 

  1. The Climate Change Act 2008 made the UK the first country in the world to introduce long-term legally-binding targets and five year carbon budgets. It requires the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 34% below 1990 levels over the third budget period (2018 to 2022) and by at least 80% by 2050. The UK Low Carbon Transition Plan, published last July, set out how we would reduce emissions to meet our carbon budgets and announced that we were sharing the UK carbon budget between government departments to ensure that every part of Government is involved in playing its part in reducing emissions. The Act also introduced a framework for adaptation, including a UK Climate Change Risk Assessment every five years from 2012 to assess what a changing climate would mean for society, the economy and the environment and how we might best respond.
     
  2. The UK Climate Projections were launched in June 2009: http://ukclimateprojections.defra.gov.uk[external Link]. The Climate Change Reporting Power requires certain organisations including Government Departments to report on how they plan to adapt to climate change: http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climate/legislation/reporting.htm[external Link]
     
  3. Climate Change: Taking Action – Delivering the Low Carbon Transition Plan and preparing for a changing climate can be downloaded at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climate/documents/taking-action.pdf[external Link] or http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/lc_uk/carbon_budgets/departments/departments.aspx
     
  4. The Low Carbon Transition Plan was published in 2009 and can be downloaded at http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/publications/lc_trans_plan/lc_trans_plan.aspx
     
  5. Defra’s Climate Change Plan can be downloaded at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climate/documents/climate-change-plan-2010.pdf[external Link]
     
  6. DECC’s Climate Change Plan can be downloaded at http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/lc_uk/carbon_budgets/departments/departments.aspx
     
  7. The UK’s sustainable development strategy Securing the Future designated the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) as the Government’s official sustainability watchdog, scrutinising and reporting on performance. The SDC will continue to monitor the UK Government’s progress against its new SDiG targets. For more information on the watchdog function, see http://www.sd-commission.org.uk/pages/watchdog.html[external Link].
     
  8. Adapting your procurement is a joint guidance produced by Defra and OGC aimed at all Government departments, the wider public sector and private sector contractors. Projects funded by the public sector have a long lifetime so to ensure the long-term sustainability of this spend it is important that adaptation is considered within procurement policy to ensure projects are able to adapt to the climate change they might face over their lifetime. Adapting your procurement guidance document can be downloaded at http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climate/programme/government-systems.htm#procurement[external Link]
     
  9. Natural Environment – Adapting to Climate Change can be downloaded http://www.defra.gov.uk/environment/climate/documents/natural-environment-adaptation.pdf[external Link]
     
  10.  The first eAuction for the UK Government’s new Carbon Offsetting Facility (GCOF II) was held on Tuesday 9 March 2010. This eAuction will supply Gold Standard Certified Emissions Reduction (CER) credits necessary to offset emissions for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the Office of National Statistics and the British-American Parliamentary Group. The eAuction facility allows suppliers on the GCOF II framework to compete to offer the best price to Government for supplying the credits. Essent Trading International SA won the first eAuction offering an average price on £12.34 per Gold Standard CER from a wind farm CDM project in China. More details about GCOF II are available at http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/lc_uk/co2_offsetting/gov_offsetting/gov_offsetting.aspx 

Nanomaterials Danger and Hope: Fullerenes Offer Potential Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease and Cancer

A Los Alamos National Laboratory  (Los Alamos, NM) toxicologist and a multidisciplinary team of researchers have documented potential cellular damage from “fullerenes”—soccer-ball-shaped, cage-like molecules composed of 60 carbon atoms. The team also noted that this particular type of damage might hold hope for treatment of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or even cancer.
 Image Credit: Photo by James R. Rickman/LANL

The research recently appeared in Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology and represents the first-ever observation of this kind for spherical fullerenes, also known as buckyballs, which take their names from the late Buckminster Fuller because they resemble the geodesic dome concept that he popularized.

Engineered carbon nanoparticles, which include fullerenes, are increasing in use worldwide. Each buckyball is a skeletal cage of carbon about the size of a virus. They show potential for creating stronger, lighter structures or acting as tiny delivery mechanisms for designer drugs or antibiotics, among other uses. About four to five tons of carbon nanoparticles are manufactured annually.

“Nanomaterials are the 21st century revolution,” said Los Alamos toxicologist Rashi Iyer, the principal research lead and coauthor of the paper. “We are going to have to live with them and deal with them, and the question becomes, ‘How are we going to maximize our use of these materials and minimize their impact on us and the environment?’”

Iyer and lead author Jun Gao, also a Los Alamos toxicologist, exposed cultured human skin cells to several distinct types of buckyballs. The differences in the buckyballs lay in the spatial arrangement of short branches of molecules coming off of the main buckyball structure. One buckyball variation, called the “tris” configuration, had three molecular branches off the main structure on one hemisphere; another variation, called the “hexa” configuration, had six branches off the main structure in a roughly symmetrical arrangement; the last type was a plain buckyball.

The researchers found that cells exposed to the tris configuration underwent premature senescence—what might be described as a state of suspended animation. In other words, the cells did not die as cells normally should, nor did they divide or grow. This arrest of the natural cellular life cycle after exposure to the tris-configured buckyballs may compromise normal organ development, leading to disease within a living organism. In short, the tris buckyballs were toxic to human skin cells.

Moreover, the cells exposed to the tris arrangement caused unique molecular level responses suggesting that tris-fullerenes may potentially interfere with normal immune responses induced by viruses. The team is now pursuing research to determine if cells exposed to this form of fullerenes may be more susceptible to viral infections.

Ironically, the discovery could also lead to a novel treatment strategy for combating  several debilitating diseases. In diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, nerve cells die or degenerate to a nonfunctional state. A mechanism to induce senescence in specific nerve cells could delay or eliminate onset of the diseases. Similarly, a disease like cancer, which spreads and thrives through unregulated replication of cancer cells, might be fought through induced senescence. This strategy could stop the cells from dividing and provide doctors with more time to kill the abnormal cells.

Because of the minute size of nanomaterials, the primary hazard associated with them has been potential inhalation—similar to the concern over asbestos exposure.

 “Already, from a toxicological point of view, this research is useful because it shows that if you have the choice to use a tris- or a hexa-arrangement for an application involving buckyballs, the hexa-arrangement is probably the better choice,” said Iyer. “These studies may provide guidance for new nanomaterial design and development.”

These results were offshoots from a study (Shreve, Wang, and Iyer) funded to understand the interactions between buckyballs and biological membranes. Los Alamos National Laboratory has taken a proactive role by initiating a nanomaterial bioassessmnet program with the intention of keeping its nanomaterial workers safe while facilitating the discovery of high-function, low-bioimpact nanomaterials with the potential to benefit national security missions. In addition to Gao and Iyer, the LANL program includes Jennifer Hollingsworth, Yi Jiang, Jian Song, Paul Welch, Hsing Lin Wang, Srinivas Iyer, and Gabriel Montano.

Los Alamos National Laboratory researchers will continue to attempt to understand the potential effects of exposure to nanomaterials in much the same way that Los Alamos was a worldwide leader in understanding the effects of radiation during the Lab’s early history. Los Alamos workers using nanomaterials will continue to follow protocols that provide the highest degree of protection from potential exposure.

Meantime, Los Alamos research into nanomaterials provides a cautionary tale for nanomaterial use, as well as early foundations for worker protection. Right now, there are no federal regulations for the use of nanomaterials. Disclosure of use by companies or individuals is voluntary. As nanomaterial use increases, understanding of their potential hazards should also increase.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC, a team composed of Bechtel National, the University of California, The Babcock & Wilcox Company, and URS for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

Contacts and sources:
LANL news media contact: James E. Rickman, (505) 665-9203, jamesr@lanl.gov.
 LANL new release

ETH Physicists Shine the Light From the World's Smallest Laser, Measured at 30 Millionths of a Meter Long

ETH Zurich physicists have developed a new laser, and it is by far the smallest electrically pumped laser in the world and could one day revolutionize chip technology. The researchers have presented their development in the current issue of Science

World's Smallest Laser
Image credit: ETH Pictures

From idea to successful implementation, the laser took Christoph Walther, a doctoral student in the group for the ETH Zurich Quantum Optoelectronics Laboratory, FIRST-Lab, just six months to develop.  The physicist, with four colleagues, had previously developed the smallest electrically pumped lasers in the world.

Much smaller than the wavelength
The laser's length  is smaller than its wavelength. It measure 30 micrometers (or 30 millionths of a meter) long, eight microns high and has a wavelength of 200 micrometers. The laser is much smaller than the wavelength of the emitted light from it. Normally, a laser cannot be smaller than its wavelength. The reason: in a conventional laser light waves move the optical resonator to oscillate - like acoustic waves in the sound box of a guitar. This is a "walk" of light waves - in simple terms - between two mirrors back and forth. And this will only work if the mirror than the respective wavelength of the laser is bigger. Therefore, normal lasers are limited in size. While other researchers have already experimented in the border area, "...we are clearly gone under the previously known limit, as we have developed a completely new laser concept," says Christoph Walther.

Inspired by the electronics
In the development of laser concept, Christoph Walther had teammates including Jérôme Faist, Professor and Director of the Institute for Quantum Electronics at ETH Zurich, who inspired the electronics of the laser. They used no optical resonator, as usual, but an electrical resonant circuit, consisting of a coil and two capacitors. In it, the light is “quasi-captured” and is amplified on the spot using an optical amplifier to excite self-sustaining electromagnetic oscillations.

As a result, the size of the resonator is no longer limited by the wavelength of light, but can in principle be arbitrarily reduced. This perspective makes lasers for the micro chip manufacturer especially interesting - as an optical alternative to transistors.  If researchers manage to converge the size of  micro-lasers with transistors then one day electro-optical chips could be built with a very high density on electronic and optical components," said Christoph Walther. This could accelerate the exchange of data between microprocessors significantly.

Sources and contacts:
ETH Zurich 
Christoph Walther
Institute of Quantum Electronics
Tel +41 44 633 32 54
E-mail 

ETH Zurich
Media Relations
Tel: +41 44 632 41 41
E-Mail
Publication: "Microcavity Laser Resonator Oscillating in Circuit-Based" C. Walther, G. Scalari, M. Amanti, M. Beck, J. Faist, Science, Vol 327, page 1495 (2010).

ETH Researchers Reveal Molecular Prosthesis to Prevent and Permanently Eradicate the Gout

Researchers from the ETH Zurich's Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) have devised a new method for preventing and permanently eradicating the cause of gout. It involves implanting a molecular prosthesis consisting of a biological network that regulates the uric acid levels autonomously.

Molecular Prosthesis
Image Credit: ETH  Pictures

As Paracelsus once stated, the dose makes the poison. This not only goes for chemical substances introduced to the body, but also those produced by it. The uric acid in the blood especially needs to be in the proper dosage. If the level is too high (i.e. above 6.8 mg/dl blood), the uric acid crystallizes out, which can cause kidney stones and gout.

However, uric acid is an important part of the human detoxification system, acting as a socalled "scavenger" of free radicals, which cause neurological disorders, brain diseases and tumors. A team of researchers headed by Professor Martin Fussenegger from ETH Zurich's D-BSSE in Basle has now succeeded in building a network of genes which permanently keep the uric acid concentration in check. The preliminary trials in mice have been encouraging. The research results were published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

Self-regulating network
In most mammals, the enzyme urate oxydase controls the uric acid level. As humans evolved from the apes, however, they lost this enzyme, which is why we suffer more from an elevated uric acid concentration. Researchers from ETH Zurich set about finding a way to rectify the defect and restore the subtle control of the uric acid level. With this in mind, they put together a biological network of genes called UREX. The individual components of UREX were "programmed" differently by the researchers: a uric acid sensor constantly gauges and controls the concentration in the blood. If the uric acid level reaches an alarming concentration, the sensor relays the information to a genetic circuit. This then makes sure that the third component of the network releases the correct amount of urate oxydase into the blood and that the uric acid level is restored to a healthy balance. The three components of the network thus communicate with each other and work independently and automatically — without any external assistance. The uric acid level can therefore be controlled permanently using UREX.

Genes left untouched
The gene network is integrated in a single cell. Around two million of these cells are enclosed in a seaweed gelatine capsule measuring 0.2 mm in diameter to protect the cells against an immune response. Pores in the capsule ensure that the cell receives an optimal supply of nutrients, the uric acid level can be gauged by the sensor and the enzyme can find its way into the blood. However, the organism does not come into contact with the network's modified genes. Even if the method were used in humans, a direct intervention in the patient's genetic make-up would not be necessary. "In the case of diseases resulting from genetic defects, it might make sense to channel genetically modified material directly into the human cells. However, this also raises concerns as the material can no longer be removed", explains Martin Fussenegger. But this is not the case with the new method: the implant can be removed safely at any time and without any after-effects.

For the ETH-Zurich professor, the result is a prime example of what the relatively new research branch of synthetic biology can achieve: "Many medical problems are solved by introducing chemical substances, i.e. medication, into the body from outside. In our method, we repair a defective metabolic pathway and help the body to treat itself in the best possible way." Martin Fussenegger refers to it fondly as a "molecular prosthesis" — an artificial aid that compensates for the evolutionary lack of urate oxydase.

Gout: a scourge of mankind
Around 1 % of the population in the industrialized countries suffers from the extremely painful joint disease gout due to elevated uric acid levels. There are many causes for the increase in the uric acid level: a genetic predisposition, environmental influences or an unbalanced diet. Moreover, it can lead to so-called tumor lysis syndrome after chemotherapy. Due to the intervention, tumor cells disintegrate so quickly that too much uric acid finds its way into the blood. This results in metabolic complications and possibly renal failure.

The team of researchers from ETH Zurich has successfully tested the UREX network on mice: as expected, the uric acid concentration in the blood decreased to a stable and healthy level, and the uric acid crystals in the animals' kidneys dissolved. The researchers have already filed a patent application for the network, but the next steps for its medical application are now in the hands of other partners. "We're confident that our network will complete all the necessary series of tests in the not too distant future, but in our experience it takes longer than you might hope for a finished product to reach the market", cautions Fussenegger. Once this one does, however, gout and kidney stones will be a thing of the past.

Synthetic biology and the D-BSSE in Basle
Synthetic biology is a new branch of research that has only really emerged from an amalgamation of various disciplines in the last five years. Researchers from molecular biology, organic chemistry, engineering, nanobiotechnology and in-formation technology team up to develop novel molecules and proteins. The aim is to program entire cell systems in such a way that they can assume organ functions. Much like engineers who design successful, more efficient vehicles or computers from individual components, synthetic biology endeavors to improve the individual components of a complex biological system and hone them for new therapeutic purposes. This opens up a wide range of potential applications. ETH Zurich recognized the potential of this research area and founded the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering especially with this in mind. The vision of ETH Zurich's youngest department is to establish itself globally as a center for synthetic biology.

Sources and contacts:
ETH Zurich
Prof. Martin Fussenegger
Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering
Tel. +41 61 387 31 60
E-Mail, Website: http://www.bsse.ethz.ch/

ETH Zürich
Media Relations
Tel: +41 44 632 41 41
E-Mail, New Release: http://www.ethz.ch/media/detail_EN?pr_id=967

Paper: Kemmer C, Gitzinger M, Daoud-El Baba M, Djonov V, Stelling J, Fussenegger M. Self-sufficient control of urate homeostasis in mice by a synthetic circuit. Nature Biotechnology (2010), Advanced online publication, 28 March, doi:10.1038/nbt.1617

Intentional Defects in Graphene Sheets May Be Solution to Faster Computers Say University of South Florida Nanotechnologists


An artist's conception of a row of intentional molecular defects in a sheet of graphene.

An artist's conception of a row of intentional molecular defects in a sheet of graphene. The defects effectively create a metal wire in the sheet. This discovery may lead to smaller yet faster computers in the future.  Image Credit: Y. Lin, USF
When most of us hear the word 'defect', we think of a problem that has to be solved. But a team of researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) created a new defect that just might be a solution to a growing challenge in the development of future electronic devices.

The team lead by USF Professors Matthias Batzill and Ivan Oleynik, whose discovery was published on March 30th in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, have developed a new method for adding an extended defect to graphene, a one-atom-thick planar sheet of carbon atoms that many believe could replace silicon as the material for building virtually all electronics.

It is not simple to work with graphene, however. To be useful in electronic applications like integrated circuits, small defects must be introduced to the material. Previous attempts at making the necessary defects have either proved inconsistent or produced samples in which only the edges of thin strips of graphene or graphene nanoribbons possessed a useful defect structure. However, atomically-sharp edges are difficult to create due to natural roughness and the uncontrolled chemistry of dangling bonds at the edge of the samples.

The USF team has now found a way to create a well-defined, extended defect several atoms across, containing octagonal and pentagonal carbon rings embedded in a perfect graphene sheet. This defect acts as a quasi-one-dimensional metallic wire that easily conducts electric current. Such defects could be used as metallic interconnects or elements of device structures of all-carbon, atomic-scale electronics.

So how did the team do it? The experimental group, guided by theory, used the self-organizing properties of a single-crystal nickel substrate, and used a metallic surface as a scaffold to synthesize two graphene half-sheets translated relative to each other with atomic precision. When the two halves merged at the boundary, they naturally formed an extended line defect. Both scanning tunneling microscopy and electronic structure calculations were used to confirm that this novel one-dimensional carbon defect possessed a well-defined, periodic atomic structure, as well as metallic properties within the narrow strip along the defect.

This tiny wire could have a big impact on the future of computer chips and the myriad of devices that use them. In the late 20th century, computer engineers described a phenomenon called Moore's Law, which holds that the number of transistors that can be affordably built into a computer processor doubles roughly every two years. This law has proven correct, and society has been reaping the benefits as computers become faster, smaller, and cheaper. In recent years, however, some physicists and engineers have come to believe that without new breakthroughs in new materials, we may soon reach the end of Moore's Law. As silicon-based transistors are brought down to their smallest possible scale, finding ways to pack more on a single processor becomes increasingly difficult.

Metallic wires in graphene may help to sustain the rate of microprocessor technology predicted by Moore's Law well into the future. The discovery by the USF team, with support from the National Science Foundation, may open the door to creation of the next generation of electronic devices using novel materials. Will this new discovery be available immediately in new nano-devices? Perhaps not right away, but it may provide a crucial step in the development of smaller, yet more powerful, electronic devices in the not-too-distant future.

Contacts and Sources:
Dana W. Cruikshank, NSF (703) 292-7738 dcruiksh@nsf.gov
University of South Florida www.usf.edu/
Related Websites
Materials Simulation Lab at University of South Florida: http://msl.cas.usf.edu
Nanophysics and Surface Science Laboratory at University of South Florida: http://shell.cas.usf.edu/~mbatzill/


Molecular Clues to Causes of Congenital Stationary Night Blindness Discovered by John Hopkins Researchers

Congenital stationary night blindness, an inherited condition that affects one’s ability to see in the dark, is caused by a mutation in a calcium channel protein that shuttles calcium into and out of cells. Now, researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have teased apart the molecular mechanism behind this mutation, uncovering a more general principle of how cells control calcium levels. The discovery, published in the Feb. 18 issue of Nature, could have implications for several other conditions, including neurodegenerative diseases such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.

“Calcium is so crucial for normal functions like heart contraction, insulin control and brain function,” says David Yue, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of biomedical engineering and director of the Calcium Signals Lab at Hopkins. “If calcium levels are off at any time, disease can ensue. Our new approach, watching calcium channels in action in living cells, allowed us to tease apart how they behave and how they’re controlled and find a new module that could be targeted for drug design.”

The aberrant calcium channel protein that causes this type of night blindness is missing the tail end of the protein. Yue’s team compared the ability of this protein to full length versions by examining how well they can maintain electrical current in cells. Normal channels show a decrease in current with an increase in calcium levels. “We and others initially believed that the missing piece of the protein might behave to simply switch off the ability of elevated intracellular calcium to inhibit this current,” says Yue. “Without this module, there’s no way to down-regulate the calcium entering through these channels.”

Yue’s team found out, however, that in reality, this module functions in a far richer and nuanced manner. Calcium channels are known to be controlled by the protein CaM, which senses and binds to calcium, whereupon CaM binds to channels in a manner that inhibits their calcium transport function. To figure out how the tail module works in conjunction with CaM to control the calcium channel, the team used a molecular optical sensor tool that enabled them to see in live cells different levels of CaM, a controller of the channel protein. When CaM is abundant, the sensor glows cyan; when CaM is low, the sensor glows yellow.

The researchers found that the tail module doesn’t simply turn off channel sensitivity to calcium; rather, the module smoothly retunes how sensitive channels are to CaM, and in turn how sensitive the transport function of channels is to intracellular calcium. In all, the tail module smoothly adjusts how much calcium enters cells. This manner of adjustment “may bear on many neurodegenerative diseases where calcium is dysregulated,” says Yue.

With the optical sensor, Yue and his team next will examine other types of live cells, including nerve and heart cells, to measure whether changes in calcium channel behavior can lead to disease-like states.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
Authors on the paper are Xiaodong Liu, Philemon Yang, Wanjun Yang and David Yue, all of Johns Hopkins.

Sources and contacts:
Media Contacts: Audrey Huang; 410-614-5105; audrey@jhmi.edu
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$5.45 Billion 2011 Budget Request for DOE Office of Science, Past Discoveries Highlighted


On March 19th, 2010, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) requested an appropriation of $5.24 billion for the Department of Energy, Office of  Science in FY 2011.

According to the testimony of FASESB  President Mark Lively, Ph.D., before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development,  this figure is in keeping with President Obama’s vision for doubling the DOE SC budget. Further, it will enable the Office of Science to continue supporting essential research programs that enhance human health and quality of life, invigorate the economy, bring the nation closer to energy independence, and drive scientific innovation.

The Office of Science is dedicated to investing in “the most exciting and daring research that human kind has ever conceived.” The programs and facilities of the DOE SC enable important discoveries in computational sciences, environmental and biological sciences, and energy sciences. For example, DOE scientists are developing tools such as hollow glass microspheres, tiny glass capsules that are half the width of a human hair, which have applications ranging from targeted drug delivery to hydrogen storage for batteries. Additionally, work at the DOE national laboratories is increasing the capabilities of supercomputers, allowing for more efficient access to data and faster processing speeds. This and other research funded by the DOE SC drives cutting-edge science and technological innovations that ensure our nation’s safety, bolster our nation’s economy, and improve the day-to-day lives of the American people.

More than 25,000 researchers from various government agencies, academic institutions, and private industry use the DOE SC’s state-of-the-art laboratories and research facilities every year.
The national laboratory system is the most advanced of its kind and permits the agency to support vital research in a variety of fields, as well as interdisciplinary research that extends the basic research of many other federal agencies. In fact, much of the research funded by non-DOE science agencies would not be possible without the DOE’s dedicated research infrastructure. At the Brookhaven National Laboratory the synchrotron particle accelerator, with its ability to produce intense light at a variety of wavelengths, is being used by medical scientists from the

Discoveries that Improve Health and Well-Being
National Institutes of Health:  In research funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, X-rays from the synchrotron are being used to study the structure of proteins involved in Alzheimer’s disease. The Office of Science also provides support to many graduate students and early-career postdoctoral researchers. Almost half of the DOE SC’s research funding supports projects at over 300 academic institutions nationwide. DOE-supported scientists are making remarkable contributions to human health.

Restoring Sight to Patients with Vision Loss: In conjunction with the National Science Foundation and the National Eye Institute, the DOE Office of Science helped to fund a team of ophthalmologists, engineers, and neuroscientists to create the first ever artificial retina. The groundwork for this development was laid by more than a century’s worth of basic research into the structure and function of the eye. By drawing on the work of anatomists, biochemists, electrophysiologists and others, scientists were able to create a device delicate enough not to damage the eye yet complex enough to provide visual input to the human brain. The resulting artificial retina has been shown to restore some level of sight to those who have lost vision due to retinal disease. By 2011, the research team expects to start clinical testing on a version that will allow reading and facial recognition. These studies are bringing new hope to patients who have gone decades without sight.

Improving Bone Regeneration: Following a fracture, the process of bone proliferation and healing takes several weeks, even months. A research team funded by the DOE SC is currently developing safe, effective, and inexpensive implant materials to improve this process and shorten healing time. They have identified a growth factor known as lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) that promotes bone regeneration with no detectable toxicity.

What’s more, LPA can be manufactured at the fraction of the cost of the other bone healing stimulators that are currently available. The next step is for researchers to combine LPA with a hydrogel that, when injected around a damaged bone, will release the growth factor in a controlled manner. This research has the potential to significantly reduce recovery time for the eight million Americans who suffer bone fractures every year.

Mitigating the impact of low dose radiation: The DOE Low Dose Radiation Research Program funds basic research to determine the effects of exposure to low doses of radiation. Researchers long ago established that ionizing radiation, which is present in a wide range of occupational settings, can lead to breast cancer by causing genetic mutations. Recent research DOE has funded, however, has revealed that exposure to ionizing radiation also acts as a carcinogen by affecting the cell proteins responsible for cell-to-cell communication and cellular structure. Thus exposure may result in breast or other types of cancer, even where genetic mutations are not detectible, and the damage can amplify by translating to subsequent generations of cells. Understanding the fundamental cell biology of radiation exposure paves the way for the development of treatments for and protections against low-dose radiation.

Discoveries in Cleaner and More Secure Energy Future

Discoveries in fundamental energy sciences funded by DOE SC are already changing the way we use energy and paving the way for the next generation of environmentally-friendly, sustainable energy sources. Specifically, the Department’s newly-formed Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is working on technologies to meet our most pressing energy needs.

Hydrogen Technologies: Hydrogen is one of the most abundant elements on the planet, making it an appealing clean energy alternative. However, almost all hydrogen is locked up in water and other compounds. Researchers at the Savannah River National Laboratory are working to advance the most promising method of extracting hydrogen from water – the Hybrid Sulfur Process. This two-step reaction is driven by electricity and heat, both of which can be generated by a nuclear reactor. This simple, efficient process is slated to be used in conjunction with next-generation nuclear plants and has the potential to produce enough hydrogen to power more than one million fuel cell cars.

Carbon Capture Technologies: Natural systems use an enzyme known as carbonic anhydrase (CA) to convert carbon dioxide to bicarbonate, which can then be transported out of tissue. A program funded through ARPA-E is working to apply this process to make the use of fossil fuels less environmentally damaging. The program will develop membrane technology for separating carbon dioxide from flue gas streams, using synthetic forms of CA. The synthetic analogue was created to be more robust than naturally-occurring CA, and thus able to function in harsh environments. This membrane technology developed by the DOE SC is one of many ways currently being explored to increase the efficiency of and reduce the cost involved in carbon capture.

FASEB is composed of 23 societies representing more than 90,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. Our mission is to improve human health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences.

Nucleic Acid Nanoparticle Platform Lets the Blind See: Gene Therapy Restores Vision In Mice

New research in the The FASEB Journal shows that nucleic acid nanoparticle platform delivery technology achieves successful gene transfer and reverses affects of retinitis pigmentosa in mice

Take a look at this: Scientists from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Oklahoma City made a huge step toward making the blind see, and they did it by using a form of gene therapy that does not involve the use of modified viruses. In a research report published in the April 2010 print issue of The FASEB Journal scientists describe how they used a non-viral, synthetic nanoparticle carrier to improve and save the sight of mice with retinitis pigmentosa, an inherited disease characterized by progressive vision loss and eventual blindness.

"We hope the results of our study will be instrumental in generating a cure for the debilitating blindness associated with retinitis pigmentosa and other inherited and acquired retinal diseases," said Muna I. Naash, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Cell Biology at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. "Compacted DNA nanoparticles are an exciting treatment strategy for these diseases and we look forward to exciting new developments."

To make this discovery, Naash and colleagues used groups of mice with the retinal degeneration slow (Rds) gene, which causes retinitis pigmentosa. The mice received one of three types of "treatments:" nanoparticles containing the normal copy of the Rds gene, the normal gene alone, or saline solution. After these treatments were delivered to the mice, the structure and function of the retina were analyzed by comparing them to untreated mice with retinitis pigmentosa and healthy mice with the normal Rds gene.

 Researchers also measured the level and pattern of Rds gene expression, as well as functional, structural and biochemical improvements in disease symptoms. They discovered that mice receiving the nanoparticle gene therapy show significant signs of healing. These mice had structural improvement in their retinas, as well as functional vision improvements, which lasted throughout the duration of the study. The mice that received the gene alone or saline continued to lose their vision. The nanoparticles were safe and well-tolerated with no adverse effects.

"Making the blind see was once called a miracle," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "As we have expanded our understanding of evolution, genetics, and nanotechnology, chances are that "miraculous" cures will become as commonplace as those claimed by faith-healers past and present."

According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Rare Diseases Research, retinitis pigmentosa is a group of inherited eye diseases that affect the retina. Retinitis pigmentosa causes cells in the retina to die prematurely, eventually leading to vision loss. There is no cure.

FASEB comprises 23 societies with more than 90,000 members, making it the largest coalition of biomedical research associations in the United States. FASEB enhances the ability of scientists and engineers to improve—through their research—the health, well-being and productivity of all people. FASEB's mission is to advance health and welfare by promoting progress and education in biological and biomedical sciences through service to our member societies and collaborative advocacy.

Sources and Contact:
Contact: Cody Mooneyhan
301-634-7104
FASEB Journal:  http://www.fasebj.org

Details: Xue Cai, Shannon M. Conley, Zack Nash, Steven J. Fliesler, Mark J. Cooper, and Muna I. Naash. Gene delivery to mitotic and postmitotic photoreceptors via compacted DNA nanoparticles results in improved phenotype in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. FASEB J. 2010 24: 1178-1191. DOI: 10.1096/fj.09-139147; http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/abstract/24/4/1178

Receive monthly highlights from The FASEB Journal by e-mail. Sign up at http://www.faseb.org/fjupdate.aspx.

The FASEB Journal is published by the Federation of the American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). The journal has been recognized by the Special Libraries Association as one of the top 100 most influential biomedical journals of the past century and is the most cited biology journal worldwide according to the Institute for Scientific Information.

Enigma Explained: Nanotwinned Metals Display Ultrahigh Strength and Ductility Due To Differing Dislocation Properties


A*Star Fig. 1: Two parallel atomic planes representing ‘twin boundaries’ between copper crystal grains. A dislocation can be seen passing through the upper twin boundary and generating a low-mobility dislocation in the lower grain. © 2010 Y.W. Zhang

The enigmatic ability of ‘nanotwinned’ metals to display disparate physical properties—ultrahigh strength and ductility—has been explained by YongWei Zhang and David Srolovitz from the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing, Singapore, and National University of Singapore graduate student Zhaoxuan Wu1. The key lies in understanding how different types of dislocation propagate through nanotwinned metals in a manner not seen in bulk materials.

Metals can be made stronger if they are refined to have very small crystal grains. Unfortunately, these fine-grained metals also lose some of their toughness, meaning that they may break easily when deformed.

In recent years, researchers have discovered that this problem can be partly resolved by introducing nanotwinned crystal grains. At the boundaries between these grains, the atomic structure on one side is a mirror reflection, or ‘twin’, of the other.

When a nanotwinned metal is subjected to stress, the twin boundaries block dislocations—defects in the crystal structure that are the carriers of deformation—from spreading throughout the metal, thus providing very high strength. However, the same samples also show excellent ductility, meaning they can be squashed and stretched without breaking, which generally requires a high density of dislocations.

Zhang and his co-workers used molecular dynamics simulations to monitor the evolution of dislocations during the deformation of nanotwinned copper. “The dislocations interact to form very complex, three-dimensional networks,” explains Zhang. “We were forced to perform simulations over millions of time steps on systems containing in excess of ten million atoms!”

They found that dislocations could sometimes move across twin boundaries, but this required unusual dislocation reactions and the motion of normally immobile dislocations (Fig. 1). In essence, the boundaries generally block the motion of dislocations, but are not completely impenetrable.

In particular, the interaction of dislocations with the twin boundaries give rise to ‘Lomer’ dislocations, which dissociate into three other types called ‘Shockley’, ‘stair-rod’ and ‘Frank’ partial dislocations. The Shockley partial dislocations provide additional slip deformation in the crystal that contributes to ductility, while the stair-rod and Frank partial dislocations act as ‘dislocation locks’, preventing further migration of the dislocations and providing high strength. This means that, paradoxically, the metal acquires its versatility by having both a high density of dislocations and significant barriers to their motion.

“Armed with this information, we can identify how to alloy the material to the desired strength for particular applications and develop new material systems for which this deformation mechanism will be even more effective,” says Zhang.

The A*STAR affiliated authors mentioned in this highlight are from the Institute of High Performance Computing

Reference
  1. Wu, Z.X., Zhang, Y.W. & Srolovitz, D.J. Dislocation-twin interaction mechanisms for ultrahigh strength and ductility in nanotwinned metals. Acta Materialia 57, 4508–4518 (2009). | article


Polymers That Can Change Color With Chemical or Electronic Stimulus Developed by A*STAR and Nanyang Technological University Researchers

Fig. 1: New azulene–fluorene polymer films can reversibly change color from yellow to green in response to an applied voltage. Reproduced from Ref. 1 © 2009 American Chemical Society

Azulene is an aromatic molecule with a rare, deep-blue color that sets it apart from other organic compounds. Recognized for over 500 years as a natural pigment, azulene’s unusual color results from an electronic interplay between the two main structural components, fused five- and seven-membered conjugated carbon rings. Recently, scientists have begun to exploit azulene’s optical abilities by incorporating it into materials such as liquid crystals and conductive polymers.

Now, Jianwei Xu, Chaobin He and co-workers from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering, in collaboration with researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, have combined azulene with a polycyclic organic molecule called fluorene to produce a series of polymers that can change color on demand using either a chemical or electronic stimulus1. This discovery may usher in a new generation of ‘smart’ materials, such as windows that can change from clear to opaque with the flick of a switch.

Fluorene, composed of two benzene rings fused onto a pentagonal hydrocarbon, has well-known fluorescent properties. According to Xu, the research team chose to combine this molecule with azulene because both units lie in the same physical plane after binding; this geometry ensures strong molecule-to-molecule interactions. Furthermore, fluorene can be easily modified so that it becomes soluble in organic solvents or water—an essential feature for processing and manufacturing.

The researchers first linked the azulene and fluorene units into short chains called oligomers through a palladium-catalyzed reaction known as a Suzuki cross-coupling. Repeating this procedure produced long azulene–fluorene polymers with high molecular weights. Xu says that these polymers are relatively easy to make after the correct starting materials are synthesized.
Using a chemical agent called trifluoroacetic acid, the researchers could directly change the fluorescence and visible color of azulene–fluorene polymers in liquid solutions. Trifluoroacetic acid adds hydrogen atoms to the azulene rings, and theoretical calculations revealed that this chemical transformation shifts the internal energy levels of the polymer, initiating new optical behavior.

Finally, the researchers created the first azulene-based electrochromic device—a material that changes color instantly and reversibly through electricity—by spinning the polymers into thin films and sandwiching them between transparent electrodes. Because azulene readily releases or accepts electrons, even moderate electric potentials could switch the film color from green to yellow and back again (Fig. 1). Currently, the researchers are working to improve the performance of these colorful materials by incorporating new molecular units containing nitrogen and sulfur atoms.

The A*STAR affiliated authors mentioned in this highlight are from the Institute of Materials Research and Engineering


Reference
  1. Wang, X., Ng, J.K.-P., Jia, P., Lin, T., Cho, C.M., Xu, J., Lu, X. & He, C. Synthesis, electronic and emission spectroscopy, and electrochromic characterization of azulene–fluorene conjugated oligomers and polymers.Macromolecules 42, 5534–5544 (2009). | article

A*Star Researchers Grow ‘Forests’ of Nanostructures on Thin Silicon Films To Boost Light-Harvesting Efficiency for Solar Power Applications

Thin films of silicon are attractive for use in solar cells because of their low material cost and suitability for large-scale fabrication, but their power-conversion efficiency has so far been lacking. The efficiency of thin-film-based devices, however, could rival that of bulk silicon solar cells if the surface of the thin film is engineered on the nanoscale using the specifications suggested in a theoretical study by Junshuai Li and co-workers at the Institute of Microelectronics, A*STAR, Singapore1.

Trapping light with nanostructures on the surface of thin-film-based solar cells can boost the solar-to-electrical power-conversion efficiency, explains co-author Patrick (Guo-Qiang) Lo. Constructing arrays of nanopillars on the film, for instance, prolongs the path traveled by the light, allowing for more scattering and therefore increasing light absorption, he notes.

Before commencing their design, the researchers also had to consider that once absorbed, photons should efficiently generate electron–hole pairs that exist long enough to be separated in the electric field—generated in the standard p–n junction setup of solar cells—to give rise to a photocurrent. This meant that their careful and precise design involved a trade-off between the absorption of solar radiation and the efficient collection of the photo-generated carriers, which is sensitive to the detailed topographical variations of the patterned film.

“Enhancing the power-conversion efficiency is a balancing act,” says Lo, “because the solar-radiation spectrum is composed of many different wavelengths with varying power intensities.” To provide a practical guideline for their design, Li and his co-workers systematically investigated the performance of nanopatterned thin-film solar cell devices, containing arrays of nanopillars and nanocones, using a combination of electromagnetic, quantum and electron transport theory.

From the simulations, the researchers were able to determine optimized structural parameters, such as diameters, heights and periodicities of pillars and cones, giving the most efficient light-harvesting and collection of photo-generated carriers.

Low-cost, large-scale production of the optimally designed solar cells is feasible because the nanopatterned devices are much thinner than their bulk counterparts and can be fabricated using standard silicon processing techniques. Furthermore, the simulations show them to be remarkably efficient.

“Today’s thin-film efficiencies are typically around 10–12% whereas those of bulk silicon are 15–20%, with a record of 25%,” notes Lo. The cells simulated by the team, however, displayed efficiencies in excess of 25%. According to Lo, the researchers expect to be able to boost these values further by applying more advanced nanotechnological concepts, such as plasmonics.

The A*STAR affiliated authors on this highlight are from the Institute of Microelectronics (IME)


Reference:
  1. Li, J., Yu, H.Y., Wong, S.M., Li, X., Zhang, G., Lo, P.G.-Q. & Kwong, D.-L. Design guidelines of periodic Si nanowire arrays for solar cell application. Applied Physics Letters 95, 243113 (2009). | article

Adaptive Materials to Provide Solid Oxide Fuel Cells to Recreational Vehicle Market

Adaptive Materials, a leader in manufacturing portable power through solid oxide fuel cells, was recently awarded $3 million through the Centers of Energy Excellence Program (COEE).  The company will use the funding to support the commercialization of its fuel cells within the consumer leisure market.

“Adaptive Materials is ready to move forward the fuel cell technology developed for soldiers in the field to provide portable power to consumers on the go,” explained Michelle Crumm, chief business officer.  “Funding from COEE provides the extra boost we need to break into the consumer market and deliver a truly game-changing technology.  This market expansion will create the meaningful company growth that leads to more jobs for Michigan.”

Adaptive Materials currently manufactures two different fuel cells. A 50-watt fuel cell that delivers portable power to soldiers in the field and a 250-watt unit that powers unmanned military vehicles.  The company’s 250-watt unit is the basis for its RV and consumer leisure market fuel cell; Adaptive Materials’ fuel cells can provide the auxiliary power needed for TVs, radios, laptops, microwaves, and other creature comforts in an RV. 

Unlike other fuel cells that run on hydrogen or other hard to source fuels, inexpensive and globally available propane, butane and LPG power all Adaptive Materials fuel cells.  “By focusing our technology on readily-available fuels, Adaptive Materials solved a problem associated with fuel cells: Consumers could certainly find need for a fuel cell, but no fuel to actually sustain the unit,” Crumm added. 

The COEE program, administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corp., supports the development, growth and sustainability of alternative energy sectors throughout the state.  Adaptive Materials was selected for the COEE program because of its collaborative work with MichiganWorks!, University of Michigan and its supply-chain infrastructure for commercialization of innovative energy technology.

The COEE program focuses on where the state has competitive advantages in areas of the workforce, intellectual property and natural resources but where funding is required to overcome technical and supply-chain hurdles that could prevent or stall the commercialization process.

About Adaptive Materials, Inc.
Based in Ann Arbor, Mich., Adaptive Materials, Inc. is the first company to develop, demonstrate and deliver a portable, affordable, and fuel flexible solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) system.  The company offers 50 and 250-watt fuel cell systems that are powered by globally available and energy dense propane, butane and LPG.  Adaptive Materials’ fuel cell system provides portable power to the United States Armed Forces as well as industries including leisure, remote monitoring, and medical devices.  For more information, visit www.adaptivematerials.com.

BioNanomatrix, Inc. Licenses Patented Nanochannel Array Chips for DNA Analysis from Princeton University

BioNanomatrix, Inc., a developer of breakthrough single-molecule genomic analysis technology, has announced the issuance of U.S. Patent 7,670,770 for nanochannel arrays that enable high-throughput macromolecular analysis.  Also disclosed are methods of preparing nanochannel array chips, methods of analyzing macromolecules such as entire strands of genomic DNA, and systems for implementing these methods.

Dr. Han Cao, the company's founder and chief scientific officer, said: "This patent covers the fundamental method and device for isolating, imaging, and analyzing nucleic acid biopolymers  confined within nanoscale fluidic channels. This invention allows for true linear analysis of very long biomolecules such as native genomic DNA hundreds of thousands of base pairs in length without cloning or PCR amplification. This transformative technology has single cell and single molecule sensitivity and will open many new opportunities in the biomedical field.  We enable the analysis of intact, yet minute, biological samples without tedious processing and complex error-prone reassembly. This technology will change the way we design and do many biomedical experiments and analyses in the future.  We are very excited about the official issuance of this key patent, which places BioNanomatrix in the forefront of this emerging field."

Edward L. Erickson, president and CEO of BioNanomatrix, added, "Under our license agreement with Princeton Universitywe now have two issued patents.  Additionally, the Company itself is currently prosecuting eight families of patents covering many aspects of our NanoAnalyzer® system."

Single molecule analysis of intact native DNA has been limited by the difficulty of "linearizing" and manipulating these long, complex molecules. To address these limitations, a Princeton University research team, including Dr. Cao, developed a simple approach that uses a nano-fluidic chip to untangle and guide individual molecules into an array of nanochannels. This technique is ideally suited for multiplexed parallel processing for applications ranging from direct imaging analysis of structural variations in a person's genome to DNA mapping and sequencing applications.

The NanoAnalyzer® is an integrated system that for the first time enables pan-genomic identification and analysis on a molecule-by-molecule basis, delivering single molecule sensitivity in a highly parallel format. It is designed to provide ultra high-resolution analyses of macromolecules, such DNA and proteins, and their interactions more rapidly, comprehensively, and cost effectively than currently available approaches. This technology promises many potential applications in diagnostics, personalized medicine and biomedical research.

US Patent No. 7,670,770, was issued to Princeton University on March 2, 2010. BioNanomatrix is the worldwide exclusive licensee of the technology covered by this patent.

About BioNanomatrix
BioNanomatrix is developing breakthrough nanotechnology-enabled genome analysis systems for applications in life science research, molecular diagnostics and personalized medicine. The company's platform technology permits users to image directly and analyze very long strands of DNA in real time at the single-molecule level, at both high resolution and very high throughputs. This technology has the potential to increase the utility of whole genome imaging and analysis for a wide range of research and diagnostic applications, providing fast, comprehensive and low-cost analysis of genomic, epigenomic and proteomic information. BioNanomatrix's technologies are licensed exclusively from Princeton University. Founded in 2003, the company is headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, and is backed by Battelle Ventures, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and KT Venture Group and other institutional and private investors. For more information, visit: www.bionanomatrix.com.

NanoAnalyzer is a registered trademark of BioNanomatrix, Inc. The names of other companies, other entities, products and/or services mentioned herein may be the trademarks of their respective owners.

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Andrew Mielach