Self-powered hydrogen sensors

Nano World: Self-powered hydrogen sensors

Nanotechnological, inexpensive sensors that can detect invisible, odorless hydrogen leaks and sound the alarm wirelessly could help safeguard future vehicles and refueling stations based on the gas, experts told UPI’s Nano World.
Intriguingly, the sensors have the ability to power themselves by harvesting energy from slight vibrations. This means they could operate continuously without batteries or maintenance when affixed to cars, refrigerators, pumps, motors or any other vibrating machine, the researchers added.

The chemical reaction hydrogen cars run on is remarkably simple. Just combine hydrogen gas with oxygen and you get energy and water — and none of the dirty mix of toxins and global warming gases burning gasoline spews forth. The cleanliness of hydrogen is in large part why government and industry support for hydrogen vehicles has reached into the billions of dollars.

The problem is hydrogen is odorless, invisible and potentially explosive. Researchers at the University of Florida at Gainesville funded by NASA have developed hydrogen sensors designed to work together in the dozens or hundreds to overcome this hurdle.

You will need to have sensors all over the place — if there is a leak, you can see which ones light up, and where the leak is, and how quickly it is spreading. That way you can shut off valves and avoid a major problem,” said researcher Steve Pearton, a materials engineer.

The sensors, currently the size of a deck of cards, employ rods of zinc oxide only nanometers or billionths of meters wide coated with platinum catalyst. Extremely tiny electrical currents are passed through each rod, and the more hydrogen surrounds these whiskers, the more conductive they become, to effectively detect hydrogen in the air. The researchers also developed wireless transmitters to broadcast signals out from the sensors, as well as ways to power the devices either through conventional solar cells or piezoelectric energy harvesters that convert vibrations into electricity.

You need lots of hydrogen sensors to detect leaks, but you don’t want to have to maintain them or change the battery every couple of months,” said researcher Jenshan Lin, an electrical engineer. “Our sensor can operate completely independently

German researchers design hybrid bio-synthetic nanoparticles to fight cancer

German researchers design hybrid bio-synthetic nanoparticles to fight cancer
They are only a few nanometers in size, but their impact is tremendous: The tiny particles drive cancer cells to their death in no time at all. At nano tech 2006 in Japan from Feb. 21-23 researchers from the German Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft will demonstrate in Hall 4 the great efficiency of nanoscopic particles as a vehicle for drug delivery.

Medicines that will make their own way through the body and attack precisely the diseased cells on reaching their destination such has been the dream of physicians and pharmacists since time immemorial. Fraunhofer researchers working in the Fraunhofer Nanotechnology Alliance have now come a little closer to reaching this goal. They have developed bio-functional nanoparticles that cause necrosis in cancer cells. “These cell-like structures have a solid nucleus surrounded by proteins that detect and destroy cancer cells,” explains Dr. Tovar of the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology IGB.

So how does it work? “Communication in the human body is a biochemical process based on the exchange of molecules,” says Tovar. “We are trying to understand these communication processes and harness them for our own purposes.” The tumor necrosis factor TNF for instance, releases a molecule that attaches itself to the receptors of the cancer cell and passes on its deadly message. To introduce the biological messenger TNF into the body, Tovar and his colleagues at Stuttgart University have developed bio-functional nanoparticles. Known as nanocytes, these carry TNF proteins on their surface. “In producing these particles, we benefit from the self-organizing capability of the ‘building blocks’: Once a contact has been established between the particles and the proteins, the proteins grow and envelop the nuclei without any further effort on our part,” the researcher explains. Tovar tested the finished nanoparticles in a Petri dish. His findings were most encouraging: cancer cells that came into contact with the particles did indeed perish. The researchers documented this process on video, and will be showing the film at the Fraunhofer stand at nano tech 2006.

Water Fuel

A group of Malaysian scientists who developed the V1 hydrogen fuel technology (HFT), which can significantly reduce fuel consumption and cost, hopes to work with companies to commercialise it.

Its spokesman Mohammad Isa Abdullah said a prototype had been developed and RM5mil was needed for the system to be commercialised.

We have yet to identify the companies which we can work with, but there has been some interest, he told Bernama.

We believe that the project is not only viable but is also of great national interest. The successful launch of the project will result in a substantial reduction in fuel costs for car users and subsidy costs incurred by the Government, he said.

He added that with further research and development, the project could pave the way for groundbreaking innovations to create opportunities in Malaysia.

HFT is designed to fit any car with emphasis on national cars like the Perdana, Waja, Wira, Iswara, Saga and Kancil. The technology uses water as a complementary fuel to petrol and diesel.

It is based on high compression nano-technology that breaks down water into hydrogen and oxygen, that are then pumped into the fuel line.

The new fuel mixture, petrol/diesel (hydrogen and oxygen), is injected into the engine where combustion takes place.

The prototype has been used in a Proton Waja which has clocked 10,000km.

The fuel H2O is able to generate a fuel capacity of 20 litres (10 from petrol and 10 from H2O). For every 10 litres of petrol, the system uses 20 litres of H2O to generate a fuel capacity of 20 litres.

UCLA develops nanotechnology safety test

UCLA develops nanotechnology safety test

UCLA scientists have developed a testing strategy to help manufacturers monitor and test the safety and health risks of engineered nanomaterials.

Nanotechnology involves manipulating atoms to create molecules smaller than one one-thousandth the diameter of a human hair. “Nano” means one billionth of a meter and the field might exceed the impact of the Industrial Revolution, becoming a $1 trillion market by 2015.

No government or industry regulations yet exist for the emerging technology.

At such small sizes, materials exhibit unconventional physical and chemical properties that allow them to perform new feats in the areas of electronics, optics, and drug delivery.

Engineered nanomaterials are already being used in such items as tires, cosmetics, and electronics and will also be utilized increasingly in medical diagnosis, imaging and drug delivery.

A review article on the UCLA research appears in the Feb. 3 issue of the journal Science.

Researchers Develop Quantum Processor

Researchers Develop Quantum Processor

A computer chip based on the esoteric science of quantum mechanics has been created by researchers at the University of Michigan. The chip might well pave the way for a new generation of supercomputers.

Employing the same semiconductor-fabrication techniques used to create common computer chips, the Michigan team was able to trap a single atom within an integrated chip and control it using electrical signals.

Electrically charged atoms (ions) for such quantum computers are stored in traps in order to isolate the qubits, a process that is essential for the system to work.

The challenge is that current ion traps can hold only a few atoms, or qubits, and are not easily scaled, making it difficult to create a quantum chip that can store thousands or more atomic ions. A string of such atoms, in theory, could store thousands of bits of information.

In the chip created at Michigan, which is the size of a postage stamp, the ion is confined in a trap while electric fields are applied. Laser light puts a spin on the ion’s free electron, enabling it to flip it between the one or zero quantum states.

The spin of the electron dictates the value of the qubit. For example, an up-spin can represent a one, or a down-spin can represent a zero — or the qubit can occupy both states simultaneously.