In just the last few years, the number of products on the market that incorporate nanoparticles has exploded. According to the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, more than a thousand nano-based consumer products are now available, compared to only 212 in March, 2006. Lux Research predicts that nanotechnology will generate $2.5 trillion in 2015.
Gold, prepared to the nanoscale, has properties that attract scientists hoping to diagnose and treat diseases. Qun Huo, chemist at the University of Central Florida, first turned her sights on using gold to create an inexpensive test for prostate cancer. In 2009, according to the American Cancer Society, there were almost 200,000 new diagnoses of prostate cancer, the most common form of cancer among American men.
What intrigued Huo, she says, are gold’s optical properties at the nanoscale. Gold becomes dark burgundy, and it absorbs and scatters light well. Huo, however, was particularly interested in scattering.
She partnered with researchers at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Orlando to develop a new test for prostate cancer detection based on these principles. The team coated gold nanoparticles with antibody molecules. These recognize and bind with specific target proteins in the sample and thus increase the particle size. With a dynamic light-scattering instrument, Huo can search for the enlarged proteins in small samples such as a drop of blood. While PSA tests are used today to detect prostate cancer, this new test is intended to increase the accuracy of tests for early detection.
“Basically, these nanoparticles are a hook,” says Huo. “When you’re fishing, you can feel it get heavy. And in my case, I’m able to see that the nanoparticle becomes bigger, that it caught something.” She believes this test could be available within a few years.
One of the challenges in developing nanoscale techniques and materials is ensuring the accuracy of the tools. Sarasota-based DTI is attempting to solve this challenge, offering high-precision devices for companies and researcher centers. DTI designed an ultrasonic piezomotor technology to manipulate and position objects at the nanoscale. It functions by means of a special ceramic ring that pulses at ultrasonic speed in response to pulses of electricity, which causes precise rotations of the motor. The result is a device that is both faster than a conventional electromagnetic motor and offers more than 1000 time greater resolution.
Says DTI’s CEO Mark Broderick, “We’re enabling our customers to manipulate a sample or procedure at the submicron level, so the applications are very broad.” One of the tools, a piezoelectric nanomanipulator, can be controlled by a joystick or a computer. A push of the joystick button allows researchers to penetrate the cell membrane without damaging the cell.
Developed at Florida State University, buckypaper is composed of carbon nanotubes (CNT) and it could revolutionize the way everything from airplanes to TVs are made. The High-Performance Materials Institute (HPMI) and FSU has produced the world's largest magnetically aligned buckypaper.
Researchers at Florida State University’s High-Performance Materials Institute receive international recognition for their work on Engineered Carbon Nanotube and Nanofiber Buckypapers.
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Novel device could aid the treatment of infertility.