To kick off the series on the Best of 2006 we have Forbes list of Top 5 Nanotechnology Breakthroughs of 2006. 2006 brought nanotechnology into the spotlight, opening our imaginations up to the possibilities that it can enable. 2007 will surely continue this trend leading us deeper into this untrodden territory.

  1. DNA ORAGAMI – a technique to fold a single long strand of DNA into any 2D shape held together by a few shorter DNA pieces. Here is a method for building scaffolding that can be used to hold quantum dots in a quantum computer or proteins in a multi-enzyme factory, to name just a few potential applications.
  2. NANOMAGNETS TO CLEAN UP DRINKING WATER – According to the World Bank, nearly 65 million people are at risk from arsenic-related health problems due to millions of contaminated wells. Rust nanoparticles, which have magnetic properties, bind to arsenic; the rust and arsenic can then be lifted out of the water by nothing more than a handheld magnet. The breakthrough was the realization that the manipulation of nanoscale rust would not require huge magnetic fields, as was expected. The unique properties at the nanoscale cause the rust nanoparticles to act as one large magnet that can be easily drawn out of the water, leaving behind drinking water pure enough to meet Environmental Protection Agency standards.
  3. ARRAYS CONNECT NANOWIRE TRANSISTORS WITH NEURONS – Silicon nanowires link up with the axons and dendrites of live mammalian neurons, creating artificial synapses between the two and allowing scientists to study and manipulate signal propagation in neural networks. The device can measure the brain’s electric signals with unprecedented sensitivity, amplifying signals from up to 50 places on a single neuron. It will allow researchers to accurately model complex brain activity, pave the way for powerful neural prosthetics, and open the possibility for hybrid nanoelectronic and biological information processing.
  4. SINGLE NANOTUBE ELECTRICAL CIRCUITS – IBM unveiled the most complex and highest performance electrical circuit based on a single nanotube, demonstrating the applicability of CMOS technology and paving the way for the future of computing. The integrated logic circuit consists of 12 transistors made of palladium and aluminum tracing the length of a single carbon nanotube. The circuit is hundreds of times slower than today’s silicon processors, but it is 100,000 times faster than any previous carbon nanotube device and has the potential to be much faster. Unlike silicon, it doesn’t require doping, which scatters electron flow and is far more heat efficient. Expect to first see these nanotube circuits in hybrid nanotube-silicon computers.
  5. NANOPARTICLES DESTROY PROSTATE CANCER – Researchers at MIT and Harvard have custom-designed nanoparticles that hone in on prostate cancer cells and deliver doses of targeted chemotherapy. In trials with mice, which were given human prostate cancer, a single injection of these nanoparticles completely eradicated tumors in five out of seven animals, significantly reducing tumor size in the other two. The work may be replicable for treatments of breast and pancreatic cancer, as well. Look forward to seeing these cancer-killers in human clinical trials.

What 2007 will offer –

We are sure to see more groundbreaking developments in the emerging interface of nanoelectronics and biology. The number of novel nanoparticles for biomedical applications is poised for accelerated growth, and there will be a special emphasis on combination products that can be used for medical imaging and targeted drug delivery, especially for cancer.

As the corporate world continues to go green, environmental nanotech will come to the forefront, with applications in fuel cells, solar energy and hydrogen storage, to name a few.

Be sure to check out the full details about these developments at the article posted by Forbes

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