Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nanoparticles act as cancer spotters

A research team led by Brown University has devised a new technique to spot cancerous tumors in the liver as small as 5 millimeters. The technique, using gold nanoparticles, is the first to deploy metal nanoparticles as agents to enhance X-ray scattering of image tumor-like masses. Results are published in in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common cancer to strike the liver. More than 500,000 people worldwide, concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, are diagnosed with it yearly. Most of those afflicted die within six months. A big obstacle to treatment of liver cancer is the lack of early diagnosis. Current techniques, including ultrasound, CT and MRI scans, spot tumors only when they have grown to about 5 centimeters in diameter. By that time, the cancer is especially aggressive, resisting chemotherapy and difficult to remove surgically. Now a research team led by Brown University reports some promising results for earlier diagnosis. In lab tests, the team used gold nanoparticles ringed by a charged polymer coating and an X-ray scatter imaging technique to spot tumor-like masses as small as 5 millimeters. The approach, detailed in the American Chemical Society journal Nano Letters, marks the first time that metal nanoparticles have been used as agents to enhance X-ray scattering signals to image tumor-like masses. Caption: A new diagnostic technique can spot tumor-like masses as small as 5mm in the liver. Gold nanoparticles with a polyelectrolyte coating can make smaller tumors more visible through X-ray scatter imaging, enabling earlier diagnosis. Credit: Rose-Petruck Lab/Brown University “What we’re doing is not a screening method,” said Christoph Rose-Petruck, professor of chemistry at Brown University and corresponding author on the paper. “But in a routine exam, with people who have risk factors, such as certain types of hepatitis, we can use this technique to see a tumor that is just a few millimeters in diameter, which, in terms of size, is a factor of 10 smaller.” The team took gold nanoparticles of 10 and 50 nanometers in diameter and ringed them with a pair of 1-nanometer polyelectrolyte coatings. The coating gave the nanoparticles a charge, which increased the chances that they would be engulfed by the cancerous cells. Once engulfed, the team used X-ray scatter imaging to detect the gold nanoparticles within the malignant cells. In lab tests, the nontoxic gold nanoparticles made up just 0.0006 percent of the cell’s volume, yet the nanoparticles had enough critical mass to be detected by the X-ray scatter imaging device. “We have shown that even with these small numbers, we can distinguish these [tumor] cells,” Rose-Petruck said. The next step for the researchers is on the clinical side. Beginning this summer, the group will attach a cancer-targeting antibody to the nanoparticle vehicle to search for liver tumors in mice. The antibody that will be used was developed by Jack Wands, director of the Liver Research Center at Rhode Island Hospital and professor of medical science at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “We have developed a monoclonal antibody that targets a cell surface protein highly expressed on liver cancer cells,” Wands said. “We plan to couple the antibody to the gold nanoparticles in an attempt to detect the growth of early tumors in the liver by X-ray imaging.” The researchers say the X-ray scatter imaging method could be used to detect nanoparticle assemblies in other organs. “The idea should be that if you can figure out to get that [nanoparticle] to specific sites in the body, you can figure out how to image it,” said Danielle Rand, a second-year graduate student in chemistry and the first author on the paper. Contributing authors include Yanan Liu from Brown, Wands, Zoltan Derdak and Vivian Ortiz from the Liver Research Center, and Milan Taticek at the Czech Technical University in Prague. The National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Energy funded the research. Rand’s work was supported by the U.S. Department of Education through the Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need (GAANN) fellowship, administered by the Institute for Molecular and Nanoscale Innovation at Brown.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Announcing New Online Seminar: Understanding Nanotechnology Safety

Registration is now open for an online seminar on nanotechnology safety. This seminar is of interest to anyone concerned about the potential health hazards of exposure to nanoengineered materials. Hear from world class presenters:
  • Mark B√ľnger Research Director, Lux Research
  • Walt Trybula Director of the Nanomaterials Application Center, Texas State University-San Marcos
  • Dr. Kristen Kulinowski Department of Chemistry, Rice University
  • Nina Horne Invited Expert
  • Dr. Antonietta M. Gatti Ph.D. Experimental Physics University of Bologna, Italy
What You'll Learn:
  • Trends in nanotechnology and how it is used in manufacturing.
  • The real risks of nanotechnology.
  • What can happen to the body when exposed to hazardous nano materials.
  • How to minimize your risk of exposure.
  • Government safety regulation.
Workers may be exposed to nanomaterials in many different manufacturing environments, and this seminar will educate them on the real risks. The seminar is also designed to educate employers about what they need to know to ensure worker safety and what types of nano materials are of the most concern. Of significant interest to CEOs/CTOs of technology companies (SMEs), Health and Safety officers of technology companies (SMEs), Government officials (HSE), Toxicology experts, and venture capitalists.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Promising Nano Spam from Russia

Every once in a while, I receive an interesting e-mail that reeks with promise. I am overwhelmed with curiousity. Will someone please contact Gannady and report back to me!?

"Dear ladies and gentlemen,

I offer for purchase made by me 254 inventions in the sphere of nanotechnologies with the help of the single-purpose heuristic method aimed at inventions making in the sphere of nanotechnologies.

Already Socrates defined the heuristic method as a method creating new systems. Currently more than 200 heuristic methods are created for technical systems development. In this country “Invention Algorithm” developed by G.S. Altschuller is the most common. On the basis of this method in the USA a well-reputed program “Invention Machine” was developed and is distributed by the Invention Machine Corporation.

But all these developments fall into the wide area of general engineering and are of little use for nanotechnologies development.

There didn’t yet exist a single-purpose heuristic method. The author studied heuristic methods for more than 20 years and he has managed to develop a powerful heuristic method for inventions in the nanotechnology sphere making. With the help of this method more than 250 inventions in the sphere of nanotechnologies were made. The inventions appeared to be very powerful and they can result in a very great economic effect.

The author wasn’t able to patent the inventions himself and to test them experimentally. Your company can easily make this job.

Details: I shall try to describe my work in more detail. I was engaged in heurisms more than 20 years and I had a desire to create a heurism for area nanotechnology. It was possible to me. The heurism has turned out very powerful and effective. By means of these method I managed to create 254 inventions in the field of nanotechnology. The created inventions concern to various areas nanotechnology and in them various physical effects are used. The greatest attention has been given by me to nanotubes, a matter from nanotubes, updatings of these objects and to creation new nanomaterials from various nanopowders and their mixes by means of compacting. 3 demonstration, insignificant inventions created by algorithm I apply.

Best regards Gennady

Gennady Vladimirovich Mayorov.

E-mail: Phone in Moscow : + 7 (495) 310-06-84

120. The method of a work-piece abrasive treatment with the help of nanosized magnetic ferromagnetic particles placed in vortex magnetic field. 129. The method of nanomatter of electret nanopowder producing. Electret nanopowder compacting is made by nanopowder ultrasounds pressing followed by baking and cooling in electrostatic field. 222. The method of nanotubes matter surface behavior change. Nanotube matter surface behavior is changed by an electron bunch."

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Semicon 09: The Show that Was

Semicon West 2009 was my 28th consecutive Semicon West so I've seen it grow from a pretty small show in 1982 when it was held in May in San Mateo in the Hall of Flowers and a few outbuildings (is Pine Hall still there?) to what it is today. It's been a rough year as everyone knows so many of the "big" companies were either not exhibiting or camped out in local hotels. However, almost everyone I talked to was positive about the future of the semiconductor industry and most said they saw "lights on the horizon" or some optimistic words to that effect. A little early to celebrate, but the semiconductor industry turned the corner back in January or February this year, and it's certain the equipment and materials industry will follow.

Aside from the fallout of a devastating recession (good luck with the recovery as Newseek notes in the latest issue), I think there's also some alarm among the exhibiting (and advertising) community that the semiconductor industry is "closed" in that there will not be any new entrants, no new companies popping up to manufacture microprocessors or memories. The same is true albeit to a lesser extent on the equipment and materials side. Process technology has been commoditized (not a real word but you know what I mean). Even if you were to build a better mousetrap, it's quite a long uphill battle to get the likes of Intel to consider putting it through all the qualifications necessary to put it into volume production, and convince them that you'll be able to support it on a worldwide basis with field engineers, spare parts, etc. In short, companies think they know all their customers -- there are no surprise $5 billion fabs (and if there were they'd be in China) -- so what's the point of spending big bucks on a tradeshow booth.

That's true to some extent but it's a bit early to be hoisting the white flag of surrender. The semiconductor industry is still massive and evolving and is still the "oil of the IT industry" as someone once said. "More than Moore" is just a catchphrase at the moment but I think that's where the future lies. Higher levels of integration made possible through 3D chip stacking, and other advanced types of packaging, will be where the action is. Sure, we'll still see shrinking dimensions (is it EUV or imprint?? -- expect the status quo for years imho) and probably lots more talk on 450 mm as the economy improves. BUT there will be new players, new opportunities, lots of room for strong growth which all gets back to the critical importance of a show such as SEMICON West. It will return with gusto, we'll be talking about cool things that have yet to be dreamed up and it will remain a vibrant and dynamic industry. Why? People want to watch movies on their cell phones while sitting on a smart toilet that analyzes how close they are getting to death from the inevitable cancer, heart attack, diabetes, or just old age. The best presentation at SEMICON West? From Proteus on Intelligent Medicine: Helping to Solve the Healthcare Crisis with MEMS and ICs. "First there was the Apple on your desktop, next there was a Blackberry on your belt. Now there will be a raisin inside you," said Andrew Thompson, president and CEO, co-founder, Proteus Biomedical.

Speaking of presentations, huge kudos to the staff of SEMI who did an excellent job of lining up great speakers for a variety of tech sessions running throughout the three days of the show. They were particularly speedy in getting the presentations posted on-line. That's a ton of work that sometimes goes unrecognized. I'd link to them here but I they they should be easy enough to find on the SEMI site. You have Google, don't you? :-)

Pete Singer

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Spooling Up for Semicon

First, a tip of the cap to Howard Lovy. I started this blog last year, then Howard – one of the original editors of Small Times -- took it over for awhile. Now, like tag team wrestling, I’m back in the ring. Howard is “pursuing other interests” as they say. He says in his last NanoBot blog that he’s giving up on social media, but I’m hopeful we’ll see him again.

This week I’m spooling up for Semicon – ya know, like the Gatling Gun has to spool up before you can fire it (blam blam blam). Next week’s Semicon West will be a busy one for our PennWell team, with our colleagues from SST, Photovoltaics World, The ConFab, Advanced Packaging, SMT, Small Times, Laser Focus World and Renewable Energy World out in force. We have a boatload of video interviews lined up, plus podcasts and yes I’ll be “tweeting”. Sign up for Pete's Tweets. I’m also moderating a couple sessions – one Tuesday morning on Opportunities in MEMS and another on thin film PV Thursday morning. Don’t miss ‘em! Standing room only!

Last year, the three big things that had people talking were 1) the state of the industry, 2) the co-located InterSolar show, and 3) 450 mm (or 45 cm as was noted at the SEMI press conference). This year, #1 and #2 are sure to be the hot topics – 45 cm not so much.

At the time, SEMI released a mid-year consensus forecast for the chip equipment industry that indicates that, following a six percent market growth in 2007, the equipment market will decline 20% in 2008, but will experience a rebound with annual growth of 13 percent and six percent in 2009 and 2010, respectively. That was wishful thinking, but good signs abound that the recovery has begun. Bill McClean is still calling for a couple of boom years; he just moved the proverbial hockey stick out to 2010, 2011.

The InterSolar last year had 209 exhibitors, 48 of which are SEMI members. SEMI said there were 251 total Semicon West exhibitors with PV product offerings. The InterSolar show had some good traffic, but a fair amount of the exhibitors were fairly low-tech, including such things as roof mounting brackets. More of the same this year? You bet. I know it’s bigger but don’t have the stats in front of me. Will we see more traditional SEMI exhibitors setting up camp at InterSolar? I expect some, but not a mass exodus.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

MEMS-enabled PUMA: Look at the possibilities

I feel like it is 1909, rather than 2009, as I hear a derisive chorus of "get a horse" from much of the media mocking the MEMS-enabled PUMA prototype electric vehicle from General Motors and Segway.

An automotive correspondent from Newsweek wrote on Twitter that he "thinks the GM Segway vehicle is a farce." And even the editor of, who should know how to spot possibilities better than other journalists, Tweeted: "NOte to GM: car with no door = FAIL."

It is likely the PUMA uses the same MEMS gyro/accelerometer cluster as the Segway, which last I heard was supplied by the UK MEMS company Silicon Sensing Systems.

The mockery doesn't say much for the vision of many in my profession ... again. It seems like members of the news media -- the survivors who are left employed, anyway -- would have learned from the recent past to recognize the early stages of something that could potentially change everything. But, even now as newspapers close and bleed jobs, many continue to lovingly clutch onto their dinosaurs, failing to look up to see the meteor looming in the sky.

A century ago, those funny, noisy, slow horseless carriages seemed as much a ridiculous joke as perhaps the rickety-looking GM/Segway electric carriage might seem now. But, as most Small Times readers know, the thing to look for is not always right in front of you. We cover, for the most part, enabling technologies -- the invisible "stuff" on the inside that enhances existing products or enables new ones.

Like the Segway, itself -- also a subject of tech-writer derision when first unveiled -- entrepreneurs look at the capabilities of a prototype like the PUMA and see how the enabling technologies can be used to fit their own visions of how a "smart" vehicle should run.

Writers based in New York, or Detroit, at times fail to realize that the world does not necessarily look like their own familiar surroundings. Newly prosperous residents of jam-packed cities in Asia, for example, are all looking to become "American-style" consumers. But the level of traffic congestion that would suggest is not possible if we are truly going to reduce greenhouse gases.

Let 'em walk, ride bikes or take buses? Easy for the current "haves" to say.

No, I look at the PUMA, and see possibilities. And, I suspect, so do the engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs who read these pages.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nanobusiness is about business, yes; but it's also about possibilities

Beware of nanotech "news stories" that declare that the scientific breakthrough of the day "may someday lead to ... " or "will be on the market in the next 5-10 years ..." Odds are, it's great science, but its business application is miles away from port.

And that's fine. I love to follow science news from the world's top universities and labs. I read tons of it every day. Not much of it, however, makes it onto the pages of Small Times or is posted online here.

There are lots of other online nanotech portals for that.

Back in 2001, when I was among the founding editors of Small Times, the mantra we began as one of the first to cover nanotech from a business perspective was "Is it us?" I would ask my group of scattered of freelance correspondents -- sometimes to their annoyance -- what about the story they were pitching to me makes it rise above the level of lab breakthrough and into the realm of a business story.

About eight years later now, it's a lot easier to tell the difference as more of the science experiments we covered in the beginning are being commercialized.

It has gotten to the point now where Scott E. Rickert, chief executive of Nanofilm Ltd., has gone as far as to declare that "the era of endless exploration is over -- at least as long as the economy stumbles." Writing in IndustryWeek, Rickert expresses his impatience now with nanotech information that is not directly related to business.

"Nanobusiness is business. Period. First, last, always," Rickert declares.

And, of course, he names Small Times as one of the few publications he turns to when he wants to read about trends in nanobusiness as opposed to nanoscience.

I thank Scott for the "shout-out." We've been trying for years to make Small Times different than your average sci/tech publication. And, of course, your contribution helps, too. If you are commercializing nanotech, or are about to, please contact me and let's generate some coverage.

But, as those who know me from some of my other projects have seen, I do not always believe in hard-and-fast rules. Sometimes, it is just plain cool to read about the future possibilities of where today's nanobusiness might take us.