Researchers Create a Camera the Size of a Salt Grain Using Neural Nano-Optics

By Michelle Horton 

A team of researchers from Princeton and the University of Washington created a new camera that captures stunning images and measures in at only a half-millimeter—the size of a coarse grain of salt. 

Optical metasurfaces rely on a new method of light manipulation, using cylindrical posts set on a small, square surface. The posts, which vary in geometry, work like antennas that can capture incoming photons (waves of electromagnetic radiation). These waves are then sent as signals from the metasurface to a computer to interpret and produce an image.

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Scientists Developing Versatile ‘Nano Couriers’ for Future Medicine

Scientists from the National Research Nuclear University MEPhI (NRNU MEPhI), as part of an international team, have created a nanoprobe for pinpoint drug delivery to affected body tissues.

According to the researchers, this development aims to create a universal means of targeted drug delivery for the effective treatment of cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, and several other pathologies. The research paper was published in the journal Nanomaterials. Targeted drug delivery to specific tissues and cells is one of the most pressing areas in the treatment of focal diseases, including heart and vascular pathologies, cancer, tuberculosis, both types of diabetes, and other maladies, said the MEPhI scientists.

This approach can be implemented through the use of nanoprobes, special structures capable of carrying a drug and special molecules to “target” the pathology centre. Each probe has to be compact, around tens of nanometres in size, with strictly defined physicochemical properties and as little toxicity as possible.

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Filming a 3-D video of a virus with ‘instantaneous light’ and AI

Elastic strain analysis Credit: POSTECH

by Pohang University of Science & Technology

It is millions of trillions of times brighter than sunlight and a whopping 1,000 trillionth of a second, appropriately called ‘instantaneous light’—the X-ray Free Electron Laser (XFEL) light that opens a new scientific paradigm. Combining it with AI, an international research team has succeeded in filming and restoring the 3-D structure of nanoparticles that share structural similarities with viruses. With the fear of a new pandemic growing around the world due to COVID-19, this discovery is attracting attention among academic circles for imaging the structure of the virus with both high accuracy and speed.

An international team of researchers from POSTECH, National University of Singapore (NUS), KAIST, GIST, and IBS have successfully analyzed the structural heterogeneities in 3-D structures of nanoparticles by irradiating thousands of nanoparticles per hour using the XFEL at Pohang Accelerator Laboratory (PAL) in Korea and restoring 3-D multi-models through machine learning. The research team led by Professor Changyong Song and Ph.D. candidate Do Hyung Cho of Department of Physics at POSTECH has driven the international research collaboration to realize it.

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Designing Artificial Microswimmers for Targeted Drug Delivery

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Many types of motile cells, such as the bacteria in our guts, need to propel themselves through confined spaces filled with viscous liquid. Mathematical models of this cell motion are guiding the design of artificial microswimmers for targeted drug delivery.

Many types of motile cells, such as the bacteria in our guts and spermatozoa in the female reproductive tracts, need to propel themselves through confined spaces filled with viscous liquid. In recent years, the motion of these ‘microswimmers’ has been mimicked in the design of self-propelled micro- and nano-scale machines for applications including targeted drug delivery. Optimising the design of these machines requires a detailed, mathematical understanding of microswimmers in these environments. A large, international group of physicists led by Abdallah Daddi-Moussa-Ider of Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf, Germany has now generated mathematical models of microswimmers in clean and surfactant-covered viscous drops, showing that the surfactant significantly alters the swimmers’ behaviour. They have published their work in EPJ E.

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‘Like having billions of tiny 3D printers’: Scientists train BACTERIA to build complex microscopic structures

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Researchers at Finland’s Aalto University have successfully turned bacteria into a microscopic workforce of nanobots, using molds made of hydrophobic material to create incredibly intricate three-dimensional objects.

The researchers placed the Komagataeibacter medellinensis bacteria in a mould with water and the requisite amount of nutrients like sugar, proteins and air. Once sufficiently fuelled-up, the bacteria begin to produce nano cellulose structures, in line with the hydrophobic (water repellant) mold in which they were placed.

Cellulose is the main component found in the cell walls of plants and substances like wood and cotton.

This type of guided growth through the use of superhydrophobic materials, which also minimize the accumulation of dust and microorganisms, could soon be used for extremely intricate tissue regeneration and organ repair in the human body.

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Researchers create a single-molecule switch

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A team of researchers has demonstrated for the first time a single-molecule electret—a device that could be one of the keys to molecular computers.

 Smaller electronics are crucial to developing more advanced computers and other devices. This has led to a push in the field toward finding a way to replace silicon chips with molecules, an effort that includes creating single-molecule electret—a switching device that could serve as a platform for extremely small non-volatile storage devices. Because it seemed that such a device would be so unstable, however, many in the field wondered whether one could ever exist.

Along with colleagues at Nanjing University, Renmin University, Xiamen University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Mark Reed, the Harold Hodgkinson Professor of Electrical Engineering & Applied Physics demonstrated a single-molecule electret with a functional memory. The results were published Oct. 12 in Nature Nanotechnology.

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Biochip innovation combines AI and nanoparticles to analyze tumors

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Electrical engineers, computer scientists and biomedical engineers at the University of California, Irvine have created a new lab-on-a-chip that can help study tumor heterogeneity to reduce resistance to cancer therapies.

In a paper published today in Advanced Biosystems, the researchers describe how they combined artificial intelligence, microfluidics and nanoparticle inkjet printing in a device that enables the examination and differentiation of cancers and healthy tissues at the single-cell level.

“Cancer cell and tumor heterogeneity can lead to increased therapeutic resistance and inconsistent outcomes for different patients,” said lead author Kushal Joshi, a former UCI graduate student in biomedical engineering. The team’s novel biochip addresses this problem by allowing precise characterization of a variety of cancer cells from a sample.

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Experimental cancer treatment destroys cancer cells without using any drugs

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One of the latest methods pioneered by scientists to treat cancer uses a Trojan horse sneak attack to prompt cancer cells to self-destruct – all without using any drugs.

Key to the technique is the use of a nanoparticle coated in a specific amino acid called L-phenylalanine, one of several such acids that cancer cells rely on to grow. L-phenylalanine isn’t made by the body, but absorbed from meat and dairy products.

In tests on mice, the nanoparticle – called Nano-pPAAM or Nanoscopic phenylalanine Porous Amino Acid Mimic – killed cancer cells specifically and effectively, posing as a friendly amino acid before causing the cells to destroy themselves.

The self-destruction mode is triggered as the nanoparticle puts production of certain chemicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) into overdrive. It’s enough to bring down the cancer cells while leaving neighbouring, healthy cells intact.

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Self-learning robot autonomously moves molecules, setting stage for molecular 3D printing

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If you know even just a little bit about science, you probably already know that molecules are often referred to as “the building blocks of life.” Made of a group of atoms that have bonded together, molecules make up all kinds of materials, but behave totally differently in regards to macroscopic objects than atoms do. Picture how a LEGO model is made of many teeny tiny bricks—it’s easy for us to move these bricks around, but if you think of molecules as these bricks, it’s much more difficult to do so, as each one basically requires its own separate set of instructions.

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Scientists create a robot made entirely of living cells

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A Xenobot, 650-750 microns in diameter. The “legs” help it shuffle around in the petri dish.

 ‘Xenobots’ could be used to clean up microplastics or deliver medication in the body

Scientists have unveiled the first ever “living robot,” an organism made up of living cells, which can move around, carry payloads, and even heal itself.

“All of the computational people on the project, myself included, were flabbergasted,” said Joshua Bongard, a computer scientist at the University of Vermont.

“We didn’t realize that this was possible.”

Teams from the University of Vermont and Tufts University worked together to build what they’re calling “xenobots,” which are about the size of a grain of salt and are made up of the heart and skin cells from frogs.

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Army of a million microscopic robots created to explore on tiny scale

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Artist’s rendition of an array of microscopic robots

 A troop of a million walking robots could enable scientific exploration at a microscopic level.

Researchers have developed microscopic robots before, but they weren’t able to move by themselves, says Marc Miskin at the University of Pennsylvania. That is partly because of a lack of micrometre-scale actuators – components required for movement, such as the bending of a robot’s legs.

Miskin and his colleagues overcame this by developing a new type of actuator made of an extremely thin layer of platinum. Each robot uses four of these tiny actuators as legs, connected to solar cells on its back that enable the legs to bend in response to laser light and propel their square metallic bodies forwards.

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Atom-by-atom assembly makes for cheap, tuneable graphene nanoribbons

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Graphene nanoribbons could serve a variety of purposes, and a new way to produce then could help unleash this potential

The wonder material graphene can take many forms for many different purposes, from transparent films that repel mosquitoes to crumpled balls that could boost the safety of batteries. One that has scientists particularly excited is nanoribbons for applications in energy storage and computing, but producing these ultra-thin strips of graphene has proven a difficult undertaking. Scientists are claiming a breakthrough in this area, devising a method that has enabled them to efficiently produce graphene nanoribbons directly on the surface of semiconductors for the first time.

The wonder material graphene can take many forms for many different purposes, from transparent films that repel mosquitoes to crumpled balls that could boost the safety of batteries. One that has scientists particularly excited is nanoribbons for applications in energy storage and computing, but producing these ultra-thin strips of graphene has proven a difficult undertaking. Scientists are claiming a breakthrough in this area, devising a method that has enabled them to efficiently produce graphene nanoribbons directly on the surface of semiconductors for the first time.

As opposed to the sheets of carbon atoms arranged in honeycomb patterns that make up traditional graphene, graphene nanoribbons consist of thin strips just a handful of atoms wide. This material has great potential as a cheaper and smaller alternative to silicon transistors that would also run faster and use less power, or as electrodes for batteries that can charge in as little as five minutes.

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