The 2008 NASA Tech Briefs National Nano Engineering Conference (NNEC), be held November 12-13 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel, is for design engineers who want to know what’s real, what’s close to market, and what might be coming in the world of nanotechnology. The NNEC will help you keep pace with the engineering and technology innovations behind the latest nanotech breakthroughs. Included will be technical presentations and exhibits from companies leading the nanotech industry in application areas such as biomedical, electronics, advanced materials, energy and the environment, and business. Read about some of those advanced technologies below. You’ll also find networking opportunities, and the expert insight you’ll need to stay ahead of the small-tech curve.

The NNEC also features the presentation of the Nanotech Briefs® Nano 50™ Awards. This year’s fourth annual awards recognize the top 50 innovators, technologies, and products that have significantly impacted — or are expected to impact — the state of the art in nanotechnology. The Nano 50 will be presented at a special awards dinner held on Thursday, November 13. For a complete list of 2008 winners, visit www.nanotechbriefs.com/nano50_winners.html . Visit www.techbriefs.com/nano for more information and to register for the NNEC.

Carbon Nanotube Sheets and Yarns

Nanocomp recently unveiled the largest sheet of carbon nanotubingever made.

David Lashmore is a founder of Nanocomp Technologies of Concord, NH. Together with Joe Brown, Lashmore invented the process to produce single-wall carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles and high-strength carbon nanotube yarns now in production at Nanocomp. The textiles, made only of carbon nano tubes, have breaking strength much higher than steel on a per-weight basis with the yarns being even stronger.

Nanocomp’s platform technology has the potential to reduce energy consumption in two ways. First, indirectly, by improving performance. The CNTs will help create extremely strong, very light weight structural com posites used to produce highly fuel-efficient aircraft and automobiles. In addition, the technology could im prove human performance, such as reducing the energy and effort required to carry protective body armor or first-responder equipment, and could even be used in recreational sporting goods.

Secondly, the technology could have direct impact through the replacement of heavy metal conductors, creating highly efficient, ultra-light wires for antennas in wireless devices, conductors for electronic interconnects, power transfer, motors, transformers, and electro-storage devices. In addition, there is the potential to create new thermal management systems that will more effectively reduce heat buildup in electronics.

Recently, the company made the largest-ever sheet of carbon nanotubing, measuring 18 square feet. About the size of a beach towel, it contains one-billion-billion nanotubes, making it 200 times as strong as steel and 30 times less dense. The sheet also is flame retardant and conducts electricity, which would make it useful in tiny electronic devices.

Learn more about Nanocomp Technologies’ carbon nano - tube textiles from David Lashmore during the Nano - composites Session at 3:45 pm on Wednesday, November 12.

Ballistic Deflection Transistors

Dr. Martin Margala, an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, led a team that developed the Ballistic Deflection Tran sistor (BDT), a new transistor with high gain based on deflective ballistic operation, as well as a framework for designing complex logic functions out of ballistic deflection transistors.

Room-temperature measurements of a fabricated BDT were used to create an empirical device model, which includes the voltage and current responses of all six terminals. This model is used to combine multiple BDTs and create a BDT NAND gate. In addition to this simulated design, measurement results from the first successful fabrication of an integrated NAND gate prove the logic capabilities of the BDT and set the stage for large-scale circuit design.

ImageThe team also has studied the physics of the ballistic transport in nanostructured T-branch junctions made of a two-dimensional electron gas in an InGaAs/InAlAs heterostructure, by systematically varying both the device size and operating temperature. They found that there are two distinct mechanisms responsible for the observed nonlinear characteristics; namely, the nonlinear ballistic effect at low applied voltages and the intervalley transfer at high voltages.

Learn more about the Ballistic Deflection Transistor from Dr. Martin Margala during the Computers/ Electronics Session at 9:00 am on Thursday, November 13.

Hydrogen Storage and Transportation

An economy based on hydrogen is one way to achieve energy independence and lower greenhouse gas emissions. Efforts are under way to produce hydrogen more efficiently, but the Achilles heel remains storage and transportation.

With Asemblon (Redmond, WA), inventor Bart Norton has patented a method for storing hydrogen as a part of an organic molecule. The system for on-board hydrogen storage for vehicles and stationary energy storage applications is called HYDRNOL™. HYDRNOL fuel is handled like gasoline or diesel, and is liquid at ambient temperature and pressure. Hydrogen is stored in an organic molecule at standard temperature and pressure. The molecule is liquid over a wide temperature range and is as safe to handle as gasoline or diesel fuel. The current gasoline/diesel infrastructure model could be used for HYDRNOL.

Hydrogen is stored covalently and is released on demand by a heated catalyst. The spent fuel is recharged with hydrogen 100 times or more, creating a recyclable carrier system. Modern cars and trucks can be modified at reasonable cost to use hydrogen to boost, displace, and ultimately replace fossil fuels.

Learn more about HYDRNOL fuel from Bart Norton during the Green Nanotech Session at 3:45 on Thursday, November 13.

Nanoscale Biosensors

As a research assistant at the Microelectronics Research Center at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), Manu Sebastian Mannoor has been researching the development of microfabricated electronic sensing platforms to detect biomolecular interactions. In collaboration with Rational Affinity Devices LLC, Mannoor has developed novel nanoscale sensing mechanisms to detect DNA and protein targets.

Using miniaturization techniques, the sensing elements, or parts of them, are now getting shrunk down to the same order of dimension as the biomolecules being sensed, immensely improving the detection sensitivity. Capacitive sensors provide a promising alternative to the conventional optical methods used for detecting biomolecular interactions, due to their label-free operation, simple instrumentation, and the ease of miniaturization.

Although capacitive biosensors have been developed, many physical and electrochemical properties of these structures and the measurement methods used have significantly limited their commercial full-scale development as a biosensor. In contrast, the NEMS capacitive sensor with nanoscale sensing provides better insight into the molecular interactions.

Learn more about NJIT’s nanoscale biosensor technology from Manu Mannoor during the Diagnostics/Biosensors Session at 1:30 pm on Thursday, November 13.

Carbon Nanotube Fibers for Fuel Filtration

Image of thermally degraded biodiesel fuelbefore and after removal of fuel degradationproducts using Seldon’s Nanomesh™filter.

Dr. Vardhan Bajpai is currently working as project lead on the fuel filtration effort at Seldon Tech nologies in Windsor, VT. His work focuses on developing carbon-nanotube- based ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) and biodiesel filtration-related products.

Carbon nanotubes’ nanoscale diameter, high tensile strength, high electrical conductivity, and high surface area carbonaceous make-up are useful for many fluid filtration applications. Seldon has focused its attention towards developing products for fuel filtration areas that include removal of microbial contaminants from fuel, mitigation of electrostatic discharge in fuel filters, fuel particulate filtration, removal of fuel degradation products, and separation of water from ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel.

The company’s Nanomesh™ filtration media separates water from fuel, eliminates electrostatic discharge issues, and removes bacteria and targeted contaminants from diesel and biodiesel fuels.

Learn more about Seldon’s Nanomesh fuel filtration media during the Nano Energy Session at 11:00 am on Thursday, November 13.

Nanomaterials for Carbon Dioxide Microsensors

Dr. Jennifer Xu, an electronics engineer in the Sensors and Electronics Branch at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, OH, is developing a variety of chemical microsensors, using microfabrication and nanotechnologies, for aerospace applications including low-false-alarm fire detection, fuel leak detection, engine emissions and health monitoring, and environmental monitoring.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most challenging gas species to detect due to its high chemical stability. However, there is a great need for CO2 microsensors for aerospace and commercial applications, including low-false-alarm fire detection, which detects chemical species indicative of a fire (e.g. carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide), as well as environmental and emissions monitoring. Due to the stable chemical properties of CO2 gas, only a limited number of CO2 sensing materials and sensors exist.

While actively working on miniaturizing solid electrolyte CO2 sensors, NASA Glenn has also been aggressively exploring new CO2 sensing materials. Two types of CO2 microsensors, solid electrolyte and resistor-based, were successfully developed through application of tin oxide nanomaterials. Both sensors have low power consumption and cost due to their micro sizes and simple batch fabrication processes. Their different sensing mechanisms provide orthogonal signals to monitor the environment. The CO2 microsensors can be integrated into a postage-stamp-sized smart sensor system with other sensors, power supply, signal processing component, and telemetry to get a full-field view of the environment.

Learn more about NASA Glenn’s carbon dioxide microsensor technology from Dr. Xu during the Sensors/Detectors Session at 9:00 am on Thursday, November 13.


NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2008 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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