Tag Archives: nanotechnology

After 160 years, it’s time to throw away the needle and syringe

Professor Mark Kendall is planning to dispatch the 160-year-old needle and syringe to history. He’s invented a new vaccine technology that’s painless, uses a fraction of the dose, puts the vaccine just under the skin, and doesn’t require a fridge.

The Nanopatch is a 1 cm square piece of silicon with 20,000 microscopic needles engineered on one side. Coat the needles with dry vaccine, push it gently but firmly against the skin, and the vaccine is delivered just under the outer layer of skin.

It’s a technology he invented in response to a call from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seeking ideas for delivery of vaccines in developing countries—where it’s a challenge to keep conventional wet vaccines cold to the point of delivery.

Continue reading After 160 years, it’s time to throw away the needle and syringe

When boron nitride outshines gold and silver

Ultra-thin boron nitride outshines gold and silver when used to detect contaminants in smart sensing technology. 

It is 100 times more effective at detecting dangerous materials in our food and environment than noble metals.

Traditionally, detection surfaces of these devices have been made using gold and silver. But covering these metals with a microscopically thin layer of boron nitride greatly enhances their performance.

The findings are by a team from Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials, Japan’s National Institute for Materials Science and China’s Wenzhou University. Continue reading When boron nitride outshines gold and silver

Insect wings beat superbugs

Nanoscale spikes on dragonfly wings are inspiring materials that kill bacteria, including deadly antibiotic-resistant golden staph (Staphylococcus aureus).

Wandering percher dragonfly, Diplacodes bipunctata. Credit: Jean, via Encyclopedia of Life (CC BY-NC)

Elena Ivanova and her fellow researchers at Swinburne University of Technology were studying self-cleaning surfaces in nature when they discovered bacteria being killed on the wings of the clanger cicada, Psaltoda claripennis, a species mostly found in Queensland.

The secret seemed to lie in millions of tiny rounded spikes, or nanopillars, each a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair.

Continue reading Insect wings beat superbugs

From sea snails to electronic free circuits

Sea snails and sponges are shedding light on how to create electronic-free circuitry and environmentally friendly optical fibre, say Geelong scientists.

The structure of a sea snail’s mother-of-pearl layer suggests how to channel light.

Inspired by the materials these sea creatures make, an Australian-US team is trying to create 3D gold nanoparticle arrays that channel light.

“Effectively we are creating circuitry without electronics,” says Tiffany Walsh, Veski Innovation Fellow and one of the researchers from Deakin University.

Continue reading From sea snails to electronic free circuits

Shine on you tiny diamond

Tiny diamonds have been used to track single atoms and molecules inside living cells.

Photo: Lloyd Hollenberg’s team are using a nanodiamond sensor to explore inside a living human cell. Credit: David Haworth, University of Melbourne

A University of Melbourne team has developed a device that uses nanoscale diamonds to measure the magnetic fields from a living cell’s atoms and molecules, with resolution a million times greater than current magnetic resonance imaging.

Continue reading Shine on you tiny diamond

Academy recognition

Photo: Wouter Schellart’s geodynamics research into the activity of the Earth’s mantle, including the Mt Etna volcano, earned him the AAS Anton Hales medal for Earth Sciences. Credit: NASA

The Australian Academy of Science recognised five individuals for their career achievements in 2013.

Better materials, one atom at a time

The first microscopes gave humans the ability peer deep into the microscopic world, allowing us to see cells and microbes in unprecedented detail. Using the latest electron microscopes we are now able to see detail down to single atoms.

Scanning transmission electron microscopy images of a BiSrMnO3 crystal. Credit: Adrian D’Alfonso/Michel Bosman

In fact, materials scientists can detect impurities in their latest compounds, atom by atom, using powerful electron microscopes aided by sophisticated modelling of what happens when the electron beam hits the material.

Dr Adrian D’Alfonso and a team of theoretical physicists at the University of Melbourne have developed these models and they are already helping groups around the world look at and understand nanomaterials in a way they haven’t been able to before.

Continue reading Better materials, one atom at a time

Saving our skins

Physicist Dr Amanda Barnard has been using supercomputers to find the balance between sun protection and potential toxicity in a new generation of sunscreens which employ nanoparticles.

Dr Amanda Barnard with one of her nanoparticle simulations Credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo
Dr Amanda Barnard with one of her nanoparticle simulations Credit: L’Oréal/SDP Photo
The metal oxide nanoparticles which block solar radiation are so small they cannot be seen, so the sunscreen appears transparent. But if the particles are too small, they can produce toxic levels of free radicals.

Amanda, who heads CSIRO’s Virtual Nanoscience Laboratory, has been able to come up with a trade-off—the optimum size of particle to provide maximum UV protection for minimal toxicity while maintaining transparency—by modelling the relevant interactions on a supercomputer.
Continue reading Saving our skins