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Please quote Nature Nanotechnology as the source of these items.

The December 2007 issue of Nature Nanotechnology is available online.

December 2007

A mechanical test for cancer

Cancer cells are softer than healthy cells, according to mechanical measurements published online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. The results suggest that this mechanical signature may be a powerful way to detect cancer in the clinic and could also have applications in personalized medication.

James Gimzewski and colleagues show that cancer cells taken from the body fluid of patients with suspected lung, breast and pancreas cancer are more than 70% softer than benign cells. Even though the patients had very different clinical histories, the different types of cancer cells showed similar values of stiffness, so the healthy and diseased states could be clearly identified. Moreover, normal cells that looked like cancerous cells could be distinguished with this technique.

"This nanomechanical approach provides a potentially powerful means for detecting cancer along with the other ancillary biomarkers currently used for diagnosis," says Subra Suresh in an accompanying News and Views article. However, before the new approach can be used in the clinic, further tests are needed to explore, among other things, the influence of other existing diseases on the mechanical properties of normal and cancerous cells.

Nanomechanical analysis of cells from cancer patients

Sarah E. Cross, Yu-Sheng Jin, Jianyu Rao & James K. Gimzewski

Published online: 2 December 2007 | doi 10.1038/nnano.2007.388


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Silicon nanowires stay current

Lithium-ion batteries that have a nanowire component could last much longer and store up to ten times more charge than conventional batteries. A paper online this week in Nature Nanotechnology reports that these batteries, with anodes made from silicon nanowires, are meeting high expectations.

Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are found in numerous portable electronics — from iPods to laptops. Typically, carbon is used as the anode electrode in these batteries, but silicon anodes should be able to store up to ten times more charge. The problem with silicon is that the repeated insertion and extraction of lithium ions causes it to degrade and fall apart, leading to poor battery performance over time.

The anodes designed by Yi Cui and co-workers are made from silicon nanowires that are grown directly on a stainless steel substrate, which serves as the current collector. These anodes reach the maximum theoretical charge capacity for silicon on the first charge cycle and stay close to 75% of this maximum over many charge and discharge cycles. The study attributes the success of the silicon nanowire anodes to a combination of excellent electrical contact with the substrate, improved strain relief and the one-dimensional electrical properties of silicon nanowires.

High-performance lithium battery anodes using silicon nanowires

Candace K. Chan, Hailin Peng, Gao Liu, Kevin McIlwrath, Xiao Feng Zhang, Robert A. Huggins & Yi Cui

Published online: 16 December 2007 | doi 10.1038/nnano.2007.411


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Mechanical memories

Scientists have developed a memory device that uses the mechanical motion of tiny tubes of carbon measuring just 60 billionths of a metre across, reports a paper online this week in Nature Nanotechnology.

Modern data-storage media exploit a wide variety of electronic, magnetic and optical techniques to read and write information as a series of 'ones' and 'zeros'. Gehan Amaratunga and co-workers have now built a new type of memory cell in which the mechanical motion of a multiwalled carbon nanotube with respect to a nanotube-based capacitor — a simple device that is used to store electric charge — can be used to write a 'one'.

Although so-called nanoelectromechanical memory devices have been demonstrated before, they have been difficult to make. The new devices can be fabricated with techniques that are compatible with those already widely used to make silicon chips. The team is currently working on ways to read the data.

Nanoscale memory cell based on a nanoelectromechanical switched capacitor

Jae Eun Jang, Seung Nam Cha, Young Jin Choi, Dae Joon Kang, Tim P. Butler, David G. Hasko, Jae Eun Jung, Jong Min Kim & Gehan A. J. Amaratunga

Published online: 23 December 2007 | doi 10.1038/nnano.2007.417


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