Tag Archives: Materials Research Society

Hitchhikers at the nanoscale show how cells stir themselves

A May 30, 2014 news item on Nanowerk highlights some molecule-tracking research,

Chemical engineers from Rice University and biophysicists from Georg-August Universität Göttingen in Germany and the VU University Amsterdam in the Netherlands have successfully tracked single molecules inside living cells with carbon nanotubes.

Through this new method, the researchers found that cells stir their interiors using the same motor proteins that serve in muscle contraction.

A May 29, 2014 Rice University news release by Mike Williams, which originated the news item, describes the researchers’ work,

The team attached carbon nanotubes to transport molecules known as kinesin motors to visualize and track them as they moved through the cytoplasm of living cells.

Carbon nanotubes are hollow cylinders of pure carbon with one-atom-thick walls. They naturally fluoresce with near-infrared wavelengths when exposed to visible light, a property discovered at Rice by Professor Rick Smalley a decade ago and then leveraged by Rice Professor Bruce Weisman to image carbon nanotubes. When attached to a molecule, the hitchhiking nanotubes serve as tiny beacons that can be precisely tracked over long periods of time to investigate small, random motions inside cells.

“Any probe that can hitch the length and breadth of the cell, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where its protein is, is clearly a probe to be reckoned with,” said lead author Nikta Fakhri, paraphrasing “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” Fakhri, who earned her Rice doctorate in Pasquali’s lab in 2011, is currently a Human Frontier Science Program Fellow at Göttingen.

“In fact, the exceptional stability of these probes made it possible to observe intracellular motions from times as short as milliseconds to as long as hours,” she said.

For long-distance transport, such as along the long axons of nerve cells, cells usually employ motor proteins tied to lipid vesicles, the cell’s “cargo containers.” This process involves considerable logistics: Cargo needs to be packed, attached to the motors and sent off in the right direction.

“This research has helped uncover an additional, much simpler mechanism for transport within the cell interior,” said principal investigator Christoph Schmidt, a professor of physics at Göttingen. “Cells vigorously stir themselves, much in the way a chemist would accelerate a reaction by shaking a test tube. This will help them to move objects around in the highly crowded cellular environment.”

The researchers showed the same type of motor protein used for muscle contraction is responsible for stirring. They reached this conclusion after exposing the cells to drugs that suppressed these specific motor proteins. The tests showed that the stirring was suppressed as well.

The mechanical cytoskeleton of cells consists of networks of protein filaments, like actin. Within the cell, the motor protein myosin forms bundles that actively contract the actin network for short periods. The researchers found random pinching of the elastic actin network by many myosin bundles resulted in the global internal stirring of the cell. Both actin and myosin play a similar role in muscle contraction.

The highly accurate measurements of internal fluctuations in the cells were explained in a theoretical model developed by VU co-author Fred MacKintosh, who used the elastic properties of the cytoskeleton and the force-generation characteristics of the motors.

“The new discovery not only promotes our understanding of cell dynamics, but also points to interesting possibilities in designing ‘active’ technical materials,” said Fakhri, who will soon join the Massachusetts Institute of Technology faculty as an assistant professor of physics. “Imagine a microscopic biomedical device that mixes tiny samples of blood with reagents to detect disease or smart filters that separate squishy from rigid materials.”

There is an accompanying video,

This video is typical of the kind of visual image that nanoscientists look at and provides an interesting contrast to ‘nano art’ where colours and other enhancements are added. as per this example, NanoOrchard, from a May 13, 2014 news item on Nanowerk about the 2014 Materials Research Society spring meeting and their Science as Art competition,

NanoOrchard – Electrochemically overgrown CuNi nanopillars. (Image courtesy of the Materials Research Society Science as Art Competition and Josep Nogues, Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ICN2), Spain, and A. Varea, E. Pellicer, S. Suriñach, M.D. Baro, J. Sort, Univ. Autonoma de Barcelona) [downloaded from http://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology-news/newsid=35631.php]

NanoOrchard – Electrochemically overgrown CuNi nanopillars. (Image courtesy of the Materials Research Society Science as Art Competition and Josep Nogues, Institut Catala de Nanociencia i Nanotecnologia (ICN2), Spain, and A. Varea, E. Pellicer, S. Suriñach, M.D. Baro, J. Sort, Univ. Autonoma de Barcelona) [downloaded from http://www.nanowerk.com/nanotechnology-news/newsid=35631.php]

Getting back to the carbon nanotube hitchhikers, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

High-resolution mapping of intracellular fluctuations using carbon nanotubes by Nikta Fakhri, Alok D. Wessel, Charlotte Willms, Matteo Pasquali, Dieter R. Klopfenstein, Frederick C. MacKintosh, and Christoph F. Schmidt. Science 30 May 2014: Vol. 344 no. 6187 pp. 1031-1035 DOI: 10.1126/science.1250170

This article is behind a paywall.

One final comment, I am delighted by the researcher’s reference to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery hosted nano art exhibit in November 2013

I’m sorry I didn’t hear about this in a more timely fashion but it will be featured regardless as this is the first time I’ve had an opportunity to write about Mongolia and nanotechnology.. From the Nov. 27, 2013 article by B.Tungalag for The UB (Ulaanbaatar) Post (Mongolian national independent English weekly),

“Nano World” Science Art Exhibition was unveiled at the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery on November 11. The Association of Developing Mongolian Modern Art and The Mongolian National Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology jointly organized the exhibition. The purpose of the exhibition is to give context about the development of nanotechnology and its importance through art. The show featured the best artworks from participants of the “Science as Art” competition, which has been organized by the Materials Research Society in the USA since 2006, and artwork by the famous Swiss artist and photographer, Fabian Oefner. The exhibition will be open for only three days, and closes on November 13.

Here are a few of the images that were featured,

[downloaded from: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=6790#]

[downloaded from: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=6790#]



The article includes this information about Mongolia’s ‘national nanotechnology center’,

About the National Center of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology
The National Center of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology was established in 2008. The main objective of the National Center of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology is to search and discover the structure of atomic molecules through nanoscience and the study of gravity. The center observes open cooperation with contract researchers.

I am unable to find a website for the center but I was able to locate the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery (or the English language version of the website).

Eeek! The sticky tape is coming after us!

Fingers emerged from sticky tape to form claws in a research project conducted at Purdue University (Indiana, US), which will be presented at a meeting of the Materials Research Society (MRS) in Boston from Sunday (Nov. 25) to Nov. 30, 2012. The Nov. 20, 2012 news release on EurekAlert describes the new ‘smart’ material,

Researchers used a laser to form slender half-centimeter-long fingers out of the tape. When exposed to water, the four wispy fingers morph into a tiny robotic claw that captures water droplets.

The innovation could be used to collect water samples for environmental testing, said Babak Ziaie, a Purdue University professor of electrical and computer engineering and biomedical engineering.

“It  [the tape] can be micromachined into different shapes and works as an inexpensive smart material that interacts with its environment to perform specific functions,” he said.

Doctoral student Manuel Ochoa came up with the idea. While using tape to collect pollen, he noticed that it curled when exposed to humidity. The cellulose-acetate absorbs water, but the adhesive film repels water.

“So, when one side absorbs water it expands, the other side stays the same, causing it to curl,” Ziaie said.

A laser was used to machine the tape to a tenth of its original thickness, enhancing this curling action. The researchers coated the graspers with magnetic nanoparticles so that they could be collected with a magnet.

“Say you were sampling for certain bacteria in water,” Ziaie said. “You could drop a bunch of these and then come the next day and collect them.”

Sticky tape is one of  my favourite pieces of science equipment along with inkjet printers and ‘Shrinky Dinks’ as I noted in my Nov. 16, 2012 posting about bio-ink. The Nov. 20, 2012 news release by Emil Venere can also be found on the Purdue University website along with photos and other materials such as this animated GIF of the gripper closing available at https://engineering.purdue.edu/ZBML/img/research/plain-gripper-closing.gif.

Cambridge University Press and the Materials Resarch Society

The July 25, 2012 press release from Cambridge Journals announces a new single point access for all things in materials research science,

The Materials Research Society (MRS) and Cambridge University Press announced today the launch of  Materials360 Online, a news resource designed specifically for the materials research community. Materials360 Online captures the most important materials science news in one place, saving readers huge blocks of time navigating various resources across the web.

Through rigorous reporting, detailed fact checking, and clear writing, a dedicated editorial staff provides original news articles, videos and podcasts—all with the unique perspective of an organization devoted to the advancement of materials science. Visitors gain insight into the latest materials information not available elsewhere on the web.

The site also brings together materials news stories aggregated from many other major scientific publications and websites. A “Hot Topics” cloud offers an easy search on keywords of current importance, and a Twitter feed (@Materials_MRS) allows followers to share contributions to this ongoing stream of news, thoughts and opinions.

Rounding out the coverage, Materials360 Online also connects researchers to all MRS publications on Cambridge Journals Online (CJO ), keeping readers up-to-date on highlighted, most recent, and most viewed articles from MRS Communications, Journal of Materials Research (JMR), MRS Bulletin, and the MRS Online Proceedings Library (OPL).

MRS is the first society to avail itself of this new offering from Cambridge University Press, which has developed the ability to deliver tailored, digital functionality for its portfolio of over 300 journals and its learned society partners. The Cambridge platform vastly improves the discoverability of materials science information—easily accessed via computers and mobile devices.

The launch of the new site comes just months after the birth of MRS’s newest journal to serve the materials research community, MRS Communications.

“This is a fantastic development for the materials research community. Materials360 Online cuts research time significantly, through aggregating information across the web in one easy-to-find place,” said MRS President Bruce Clemens. “We continue to be proud of our relationship with Cambridge University Press and this is just another example of how two world-class organizations can work together to create outstanding results,” he said. “Along with our new journal, MRS Communications, this new site will significantly improve the information flow to materials research professionals everywhere.”

Jamie Hutchins, Head of Journals, Americas said the new site was set to be the first of many, as other learned societies, already entrusting their journals and other publications to Cambridge, take the opportunity to create a new online presence through online hubs that offer much more than just a website.

“This new capability is a true game-changer for our distinguished partners like the Materials Research Society. We can now pull information from across the globe into a meaningful site that will save the academic community untold hours of research time.”

Some of  the materials on the website are free such as this video,

As they note in the press release, news is aggregated from many sources although I suspect they have the same problem I have, most of the material they access will be in English which leaves a good chunk of international research inaccessible. Still, this is a pretty impressive collection.

It’s not all free, from the Terms of Use webpage,

Materials360 Online (‘website’) is provided by Cambridge University Press (‘Cambridge’) and its collaboration partner, The Materials Research Society (‘MRS’).

Cambridge University Press is a syndicate of the University of Cambridge and its principal place of business is at The Edinburgh Building, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge, CB2 8RU. The Materials Research Society is an organization of materials researchers from academia, industry, and government that promotes communication for the advancement of interdisciplinary materials research to improve the quality of life and its primary place of business is at 506 Keystone Drive, Warrendale, PA, 15086-7537, USA.

The website provides access to four Journals:

• Online Proceedings Library
• MRS Bulletin
• MRS Communications
• Journal of Materials Research(‘the Journal(s)’)

By registering to access and using this website at www.materials360online.com for the journals you are indicating that you accept the terms and conditions set out below. Users who do not accept these terms of use are not authorized to use or continue using this website.

Cambridge or MRS may amend these terms of use at any time and any revised version will be effective immediately that it is displayed on this website. In the event of any comments or questions concerning these terms of use, please contact us by emailing The Legal Services Director at legalservices@cambridge.org or writing to The Legal Services Director at The Edinburgh Building, Shaftesbury Road, Cambridge, CB2 8RU, England.

The website homepage, listings and full text displays of news articles, search listings, video links, alongside tables of contents and abstracts of Journal articles may be accessed free of charge by all users.

The full texts of Journal articles (referred to below as ‘the Materials’) may be accessed only by authorized users. ‘Authorized User’ is defined as either:

  • 1. A fully paid member of the MRS.
  • 2. An individual who is authorized to access the Journals through a secure network or proxy server (subject to the terms and conditions detailed below) at a subscribing institution, via his/her affiliation with a subscribing institution as a current student, faculty member, library patron, or employee
  • 3. An individual who holds a valid electronic personal subscription to Cambridge Journals Online.
  • 4. An individual who has purchased access to a single article on Cambridge Journals Online, and who accesses that article within the allotted timeframe.


I hope they are able to keep this website active and interesting over time. Right now, it certainly seems like promising.

More nano art from the Materials Research Society (MRS)

The Materials Research Society has two major meetings in the year, Spring and Fall. At each meeting, there is an art competition and I think much of it could be classified as nano art. Michael Berger over at the Nanowerk website is featuring several pieces from the Spring 2012 and earlier meetings in an April 26, 2012 news item.  (Nanowerk has a library of nano art here.)

Here’s a sample (A Dendritic Baby Giraffe Born Inside Ni-Al-C Melt) from the MRS 2012 Spring meeting (more here),

Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) image depicts a baby giraffe formed within a jungle of Ni-Al-C dendrites. As the molten alloy was being solidified inside a graphitic crucible, the melt was decanted, leaving behind a little dendrite wetted by a thin molten blanket. As the jungle got colder, the blanket froze and rejected carbon which eventually crystallized as a graphite cover. Upon further cooling, the graphitic cover wrinkled, due to its thermal expansion coefficient mismatch with metallic substrate, creating a faceted network of creases resembling the familiar skin patches of a giraffe. - Shaahin Amini and Reza Abbaschian, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California Riverside

And there’s this one (Mountains of Organic Crystal Snow),

A stunning visual pattern of high-performance organic semiconductor crystals obtained using cross-polarized optical microscopy. The image is completely original without editing. The nucleating point shows a pattern that resembles a lone man wearing a curious hat on top of a mountain made from organic crystals amid a sea of other crystals. The cross-polarizer modulates the brightness of the different mountain top, providing a perspective of depth. The Haiku was inspired by the man-like figure: " The scientist sits atop, Mountains of organic crystal snow, Yonder the electrons flow? - Benjamin Tee

I see some samples of creative writing as per the captions written by the scientists, as well as, their nano art.

Bot bot here and bot bot there and a bot bot everywhere but not Old Macdonald’s Farm

The Materials Research Society (MRS) has a Fall 2011 meeting in Boston, Massachusetts scheduled for Nov. 28, 2011 to Dec. 2, 2011, which will feature amongst other exhibits,  ‘mibots’. From the Nov. 9, 2011 news item on Azonano,

…  new “miBots” from Imina Technologies (Ecublens, Switzerland).

.. are more than nanomanipulators. Unlike conventional systems, they are virtually untethered and move independently. Working individually or in groups, they can be fitted with a variety of tools such as grippers, probes, and optical fibers so that, in addition to manipulating the sample, they can illuminate a nano workspace and conduct force or electrical measurements. Vacuum ready, miBots’ proprietary monolithic structure makes them robust, mechanically and thermally stable, and less sensitive to vibration.

Imina Technologies has engineered a variety of stage options for these novel mini robots. For conventional installation on inverted light microscopes (LM), SEMs, or focused-ion beam systems (FIBs), the “miBase” provides control and maneuvering room for up to four miBots. Special apertures accommodate illumination for the LM and stubs for SEMs, and multiple coaxial I/O connections enable electrical characterization and testing.

You can find out more about Imina Technologies and their ‘mibots’ here.

For a completely different kind of bot, a company named Nanobotmodels, situated in the Ukraine, offers illustration, animations, and presentation materials. From the company’s About page,

Our company Nanobotmodels was founded in 2007 and its goal is todevelop modern art-science-technology intersections. Nanotechnology boosts medicine, engineering, biotechnology, electronics soon, so artwork and vision of the nanofuture will be very useful.

We are making hi-end nanotechnology and nanomedicine illustration and animation. You can imagine any interesting-to-you animation, illustration or presentation materials, and we can make them real.

The level of detail in each medical illustration can be used to simplify complex structures and make them visually attractive.

Our clients include the largest medicine photobanks, nanotechnology magazines and publications, educational organization, and private companies.

Company was founded by CEO Svidinenko Yuriy, futurist and nanotechnology artist.

Our team consists of modern artists, modelers and nanotechnology scientists.

Here’s a bit more about the company’s work in medical illustration from a Nov. 11, 2011 news item at Nanotechnology Now,

One heat therapy to destroy cancer tumors using nanoparticles is called AuroShell™. The AuroShell™ nanoparticles circulate through a patient’s bloodstream, exiting where the blood vessels are leaking at the site of cancer tumors. Once the nanoparticles accumulate at the tumor the AuroShell™ nanoparticles are used to concentrate the heat from infrared light to destroy cancer cells with minimal damage to surrounding healthy cells. Nanobotmodels company provides good visual illustration of this process. Nanospectra Biosciences has developed such a treatment using AuroShell™ that has been approved for a pilot trial with human patients.

Gold nanoparticles can absorb different frequencies of light, depending on their shape. Rod-shaped particles absorb light at near-infrared frequency; this light heats the rods but passes harmlessly through human tissue. Sphere-shaped nanoparticles absorb laser radiation and passes harmlessly through human tissue too.

Nanobotmodels Company provides visual illustration of nanoparticle cancer treatment. Our goal – make realistic vision of modern drug delivery technology.

I found this sample on the company’s website gallery,

Illustration from Nanobotmodels website: Nanomechanical robots attacking cancer cell

You can find more artwork here.

Those are all the bots for today.

Outreach coordinator job for Materials Research Society in Pennsylvania

This month’s (August 2011) NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Education) Net newsletter features a job posting,

The Materials Research Society, located in Warrendale, PA, seeks an experienced education or science outreach coordinator to develop, execute, and manage education, outreach and volunteer programs that support the society’s initiatives. Ideal candidates will have at minimum a bachelor’s degree in education or equivalent and 3 years experience working in education and outreach science program development. For more information and to apply, email resume, cover letter, salary history, and 3 references to HRoutreach@mrs.org.

You can find this and other job postings in the Materials Research sector here.

Science outreach and Nova’s Making Stuff series on PBS

The February 2011 NISE (Nanoscale Informal Science Education) Net newsletter pointed me towards a video interview with Amy Moll, a materials scientist (Boise State University) being interviewed by Joe McEntee, group editor IOP Publishing, for the physicsworld.com video series,

Interesting discussion, yes? The Making Stuff series on PBS is just part of their (materials scientists’ working through their professional association, the Materials Research Society) science outreach effort. The series itself has been several years in the planning but is just one piece of a much larger effort.

All of which puts another news item into perspective. From the Feb. 7, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

The Arizona Science Center is enlisting the expertise of professors in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering in showcasing the latest advances in materials science and engineering.

The engineering schools are among organizations collaborating with the science center to present the Making Stuff Festival Feb. 18-20. [emphasis mine]

The event will explore how new kinds of materials are shaping the future of technology – in medicine, computers, energy, space travel, transportation and an array of personal electronic devices.

No one is making a secret of the connection,

The festival is being presented in conjunction with the broadcast of “Making Stuff”, a multi-part television series of the Public Broadcasting Service program NOVA that focuses on advances in materials technologies. It’s airing locally on KAET-Channel 8.

Channel 8 is another collaborator on the Making Stuff Festival, along with ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, the Arizona Technology Council, Medtronic, Intel and Science Foundation Arizona.

I highlight these items to point out how much thought, planning, and effort can go into science outreach.

Nano haikus (from the Feb. 2011 issue of the NISE Net Newsletter,

We received two Haikus from Michael Flynn expressing his hopes and fears for nanotechnology:

Miracle fibers
Weave a new reality
Built from the ground up

Too Small to be seen
This toxin is nanoscale
Can’t tell if it spilled