Coming Soon: Artificial Gecko Feet, Microcellular Scaffolds, And Programmable Matter!S

Are you ready for surfboard-shaped nanotech? How about solar panels that rely on light being a wave instead of a particle to set up a current? The American Vacuum Society (AVS)'s San José symposium unveiled dozens of material-science breakthroughs.

The Rectenna:
Rectennas are like solar panels, but rely on light acting as a wave rather than a particle. Imagine a rooftop antenna, that would create DC power from visible light waves. The waves influence electrons in the antenna, driving them back and forth, and potentially inducing a current. Right now, this technology only works with microwaves, but researchers are working on new materials to make this possible.

Nanopolymers mimic gecko feet and insect wings:
Polymers can be created to mimic the properties of gecko feet and insect wings by forming structures with approximately 40,000,000 aligned nanocolumns per square millimeter, which could be tuned to adjust hydrophobicity, porosity, electrochemistry, chemical reactivity, surface energy and crystallinity. The material was developed by researchers at Penn State, and they plan to use it for targeted drug delivery.

Bioink:
3D bio-constructions, comprised of scaffolding, living cells, and drugs if needed. Cell printing allows for cells to be precisely positioned, and to create microvasculature. Layer by layer, a construction of human endothelial cells and fibrin would be created, the latter as a scaffold. This would provoke the further grown of endothelial cells, and the formation of microvasculature.

Programmable Matter:
This one's so off the wall and hard to summarize, I'm just going to quote the abstract. This is from David Erickson at Cornell:

A dichotomy exists between the bottom-up self-assembly paradigm used to create regular structures at the nanoscale, and top-down approaches used to fabricate arbitrary structures serially at larger scales. The former of these enables rapid, highly parallel assembly but lacks critically important features of the latter such as the ability to arbitrarily direct the assembly location and perform error correction. We and our collaborators have recently proposed an alternative approach which combines these two based on dynamically programmable self-assembling materials, or programmable matter. The uniqueness of our approach is that it uses dynamically-switchable affinities between assembling components faci litating the assembly of irregular structures. In this talk I present an overview of our approach and detail some of the analytical and experimental ad vances towards a programmable matter system we have recently made. These include: the development of a multi-chamber microfluidic chip for improved far-field assembly, the demonstration of near-field inter-tile affinity switching using a thermorheological assembly fluid and the ability to enhance assembly in three dimensions using unique fluid-structure interactions.

Surfboard Nanoparticles:
It turns out the ideal shape for nanoparticles is that of a surfboard, the same as platelets. It turns out cells of this shape stay close to the walls of vessels, which makes them better for targeting the blood supply of tumors.