National Laboratories has come up with an "intelligent
ink" that is formed of responsive "nanostructures"
that perform work. It's ideal for those "wishing
to directly write - rather than mechanically construct
- sensor arrays and fluidic or photonic systems,"
says project leader Jeff Brinker.
journal Nature reports that scientists were able to
use these self-assembling inks to write patterns that
"possess external form and internal function"
- 3-D ink, that becomes functioning, self-assembling
nanoscopic material. Its pores behave as little sensors
or valves, machines so small that next to them a grain
of sand would be a skyscraper. They have, they claim,
fabricated a substance that "organizes itself."
at Sandia has also led to something like the little
hand-held scanners envisioned in Star Trek - a 'micro-chem-lab'
small enough to fit inside a snow-pea pod.
tiny becomes the gigantic; the vast is ultimately
a function of the microscopic. One single-celled protozoan
in the sea becomes two, then four, eventually billions
-- and becomes a red tide, transforming large parts
of the Gulf of Mexico to a morass of scarlet poison.
A hurricane front, hundreds of miles across, sweeps
mightily over that same sea elsewhere, carrying vast
clouds of flood-rain in its juggernaut walls of wind
-- but a hurricane is ultimately made up of individual
molecules, sub-microscopically minute atmospheric
particles interacting in gargantuan complexity, the
sum of the parts becoming …Hurricane Andrew. And of
course a simple spring-shower rain cloud -- a good
thing, usually -- is made up of many individual raindrops.
relate this dynamic to "catastrophe theory".
To quote from the Dictionary of Modern Thought: …There
are often certain critical values of the input where
a small change produces a very large change in the
output - 'a catastrophe'. We associate the term catastrophe
with destructiveness, negativity, but in this context
it simply describes the action o
same dynamic is seen in the works of humanity …which
should become especially dramatic when nanotechnology
starts showing real interactivity with our lives.
Right now it's more than theoretical -- but less than
practical. Every day nanotech, however, gets closer
to becoming a practical reality. Science writer Carl
Hall reports on the work of a team of scientists at
the University of California at Santa Barbara -- collaborating
with Japanese scientists -- who're using a two-story-tall
electronic microscope (a gigantic device for delving
into the tiny, you notice) to create nano-sized three-dimensional
objects of etched glass, as well as chemical-trapping
cages, molecular pores and other structural elements
as small as one-thousandth the diameter of a human
hair. Pores in the three-dimensional nanodevice could
be used as holding tanks for useful enzymes. These
could be used in tandem with biomolecular motors.
motors? Cornell's Carlo Montemagno reports that biomolecular
motors -- driven by ATP, the fuel for our muscles
-- can be used to spin microscopic propellers, demonstrating
"how biological and engineered components can
be linked with amazing precision" on a nanometric
scale. According to Hall, it's a prototype of hybrid
bioengineered machinery that someday might be used
to deliver drugs to individual cells in the body.
Ernst and Young report compiled for the biotech conference
in San Diego maintains that "biotechnology has
the potential to be the defining industry during the
you look at history, and you see what happened when
we made the transition from the agricultural era to
the information age, this period has all the earmarks
of being another big shift," says E&Y consultant
Scott Morrison. And it's primarily about DNA-a tiny
molecule with a huge responsibility.