Nanotechnology breakthroughs are happening every day. NASA Tech Briefs' Nano 2005 nano engineering conference, November 10-11 at the Marriott Boston Newton, will help you keep pace with the engineering and technology innovations behind the latest nano breakthroughs. These technologies have real-world applications in the aerospace and defense, electronics, bio/medical, power and energy, and manufacturing industries. You'll also have networking and funding opportunities, sessions, panel discussions, and expert insight you need to stay ahead of the small-tech curve.

This year's event also will feature the presentation of the first annual Nanotech Briefs' Nano 50™ Awards, which recognize the top 50 inventions, products, and innovators that have significantly impacted — or are expected to impact — the state of the art in nanotechnology. The winners of the Nano 50™ awards are the 'best of the best' — the innovative people and technologies that will move nanotechnology to key mainstream markets. The Nano 50™ will be presented at a special awards dinner held on November 10. To view a complete list of Nano 50™ winners, visit  .

A number of Nano 50™ recipients will highlight their award-winning technologies in selected panel sessions. Following are profiles of some of these Nano 50™ innovators and companies that will be part of the conference program. See the sidebar on page 24 for the conference agenda, which features a who's who of industry leaders.

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The next time you swing your golf club, nanotechnology could be helping the ball go straighter. NanoDynamics of Buffalo, NY, introduced NDMX Technology, which uses nanotechnology in the next generation of golf balls. Doug DuFaux, inventor of the NDMX golf ball and director of the company's ND Innovations' business unit, is a Nano 50™ winner in the Innovator category.

The NDMX technology focuses on the physics of a golf ball's rotation. Rotation increases turbulence, which generates lift — a favorable quality in a golf ball. However, when the rotation of the ball is off-axis, the ball tends to hook or slice. By engineering the ball so that the energy transfer from the club head to the ball is more efficient, lift can be generated without as much spin, resulting in the ball traveling as far, but with less slice. The ball is engineered around a patented hollow metal core and distributes the weight to the outside, instead of having the weight concentrated in the center.

According to DuFaux, "During the development program, we used nanotechnology as a toolbox to modify the system in two key areas — strength, which is a commonly known benefit of some nanomaterials, as well as feel and playability, which marries art to science."

NanoDynamics also has business units centered on developing portable solid oxide fuel cell systems, enhanced nano components, and high-performance materials.

Keith Blakely, NanoDynamics CEO, will present the Nano 2005 Keynote Address at 9:15 a.m. on Thursday, November 10.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

An invention by Yuntian Zhu of the Superconductivity Technology Center (STC) at Los Alamos National Lab is the cornerstone of aircraft half the weight of today's planes, cars that can survive the worst crashes, and elevators that can whisk passengers into outer space. A Nano 50™ winner in the Technology category, the invention is the world's longest carbon nanotube measuring 4 centimeters in length.

The single-wall carbon nanotube was created using a process called catalytic chemical vapor deposition. The synthesis of the individual nanotube on a silicon substrate indicates that it may be possible to grow continuous carbon nanotubes without any length limitation.

Zhu explained that carbon nanotubes are 100 times stronger than the Kevlar currently used for armored vests, and cable made of the nanotubes with the width of ordinary sewing thread could lift an automobile. Besides improved body armor, applications include power transmission lines, sporting goods, suspension bridges, space exploration, robotics, artificial muscles, and electromechanical systems such as microelectric motors. The nanotube's catalytic and absorptive properties could lead to uses in biology and environmental cleanup, as well as fuel cells.

Other uses include nanoscale electronics, in which the nanotubes can be used as conducting or insulating materials. For example, joining two nanoscale carbon tubes with different electronic properties could create nanoscale diodes.

Learn more from Yuntian Zhu about the myriad of uses for these carbon nanotubes during the Disruptive Technologies plenary session at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, November 10.

mPhase Technologies

A Nano 50™ winner in the Technology category, mPhase Technologies of Norwalk, CT, developed a 'smart' battery based on nanotechnology and advances in microfluidics control. mPhase is commercializing a nano battery with Bell Labs/Lucent Technologies that would have a long shelf life, be easy to miniaturize, offer high power and energy density, and be inexpensive to mass-produce.

Electrolyte is dispensed on top of nanoposts, or tubes. The droplet sits above the tubes with little or no interaction with the tubes themselves. The droplet does not contact the electrodes until it is activated, so no unwanted electrochemical reaction occurs, giving the nano battery long-term storage capability. (mPhase Technologies)

Controlling the wetting behavior of a liquid electrolyte when interacting with metalized, nanopost surfaces is the enabler of the nano battery. The battery incorporates the principle that nanotextured materials are superhydrophobic, which means that liquids such as water are repelled by the material. Electrolyte is dispensed on top of the nanoposts, and because of the superhydrophobic coating on the nanostructured substrate, the electrolyte does not contact the electrodes until it is activated. Therefore, no unwanted electrochemical reaction occurs, giving the nano battery long-term storage capability.

The battery can be used either as a primary or reserve power source. In applications for the military, homeland security, and emergency responders, the battery could be stored for decades without fear of dissipation. While conventional batteries in storage dissipate as much as 10% per year, the nano battery is projected to last 15 to 20 years. The battery also has the potential for integration into electronic components to create new classes of integrated devices such as active RFID tags and labs on a chip.

Learn more about the nano battery technology during the Power & Energy session at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, November 11.

NASA's Ames Research Center

For more than seven years, Dr. Jun Li, group leader of the Nanobiosensor Project at NASA Ames' Center for Nanotechnology, has been working on integrating nanomaterials into electronic and biomedical devices. In recognition of his work, Dr. Li is a Nano 50™ winner in the Innovator category.

His research covers a broad area closely related to surface chemistry/physics, particularly the surface properties of organic, self-assembled films and the fundamental processes at electrode/ electrolyte interfaces. In recent years, Dr. Li's research has shifted to the fabrication and characterization of nanomaterials and devices, and the development of biosensors.

The goal is to study methods to fabricate nanomaterials such as carbon nanotubes and integrate them into useful nanodevices by combining nanofabrication and chemical functionalization, particularly nanoelectrode assembly interfaced with biomolecules for the development of biosensors.

The ultimate goal is to develop fast, ultrasensitive, highly specific, low-cost, miniaturized biosensors using state-of-the-art nanotechnologies. The sensors are expected to be integrated into next-generation gene chips. Applications include novel drug delivery systems and biosensor technology for cancer detection.

Hear more from Dr. Li about his work in the area of biosensors during the Bio-Medicine session at 10:45 a.m. on Friday, November 11.


The winner of a Nano 50™ award in the Technology category, Nanomix has developed the Sensation™ Nanotube-Based Universal Detection Platform, which is the basis of a number of devices for use in medical and industrial detection applications.

Carbon nanotubes are combined with silicon microstructures. Electrical impedance is measured by applying a voltage, providing a characteristic signal. The nanotube network is coated with a functional layer that interacts with the chemical or biological analyte of interest.

The scaleable, nanoelectronic devices use ultra-sensitive carbon nanotube sensing elements combined with silicon microstructures using proprietary materials and methods. Electrical impedance can be measured by applying a voltage, providing a characteristic signal. The nanotube network is coated with a functional layer that interacts with the chemical or biological analyte to be detected. The one-nanometer diameter of the nanotubes allows for ultra-sensitive detection.

The devices can be deployed across a range of applications, including industrial gas detection and medical breath analysis. Military and homeland security applications include detection of explosive, chemical, and biological warfare agents, as well as environmental, health, and safety regulation.

Learn more about homeland security and defense applications of this technology during the Defense & Security session at 9:00 a.m. on Friday, November 11.


The first company to bring nanotechnology to the textile industry, Nano-Tex® of Emeryville, CA, is a Nano 50™ winner in the Product category for its Resists Spills' fabric protection.

Tiny 'whiskers' aligned by proprietary 'spines' are designed to repel liquids and are attached to the fibers using molecular hooks.

Nano-Tex Resists Spills is a chemical enhancement, attached at the molecular scale, which fundamentally transforms the fibers. Major apparel retailers such as Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, the GAP, Hugo Boss, Brooks Brothers, and Old Navy now sell clothing incorporating Nano-Tex® Resists Spills.

Learn more about this and other applications of nanoscale chemical protection during the Disruptive Technologies session at 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, November 10.

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NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the October, 2005 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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